Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that DIRECTV will provide restitution to consumers for numerous alleged violations of consumer protection laws, including deceptive advertising, contracts, pricing and promotional offers, as well as failure to clearly disclose cancellation fees.
The restitution is part of a nationwide settlement involving 49 states and the District of Columbia. Blumenthal’s office helped negotiate the settlement in cooperation with Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr.
“DIRECTV was anything but direct with consumers, conning them with confusing contracts, deceptive ads and misleading promotions,” Blumenthal said. “This was classic bait and switch -- hooking consumers with phony discounts and then hitting them with hidden charges. Consumers thought they were getting a deal only to get clipped. Customers who caught on and canceled were sometimes clobbered with substantial cancellation fees.
“This settlement compels DIRECTV to turn off these abusive practices and provide customers with restitution -- money back for unfair charges.
“I will continue fighting to hold companies accountable for illegal, abusive and deceptive contacts and practices. Stealing consumers’ hard-earned dollars through deception is intolerable and unconscionable.”
The settlement resulted from a two-year multistate investigation finding that nationwide DIRECTV:
· Misled consumers in written materials, advertisements and sales pitches as to the price and commitment term of its services;
· Included contract terms and conditions without the consumers’ knowledge or consent, for example, charging an additional undisclosed fee to fix defective or broken equipment;
· Offered promotions, including “cash back” and free trials, that were unclear, causing consumers to pay more than expected or miss deadlines to cancel “free trial” services;
· Charged confusing and unclear cancellation fees;
· Failed to properly monitor third parties offering goods and services through its bills, generating numerous complaints about unwanted charges and services;
· Misled consumers as to the availability of local channels or sports package terms and conditions.
In its settlement with the states, DIRECTV agreed to cease all such practices and comply with consumer protection laws.
Blumenthal said his office has received almost 200 complaints against DIRECTV since 2007. The states are setting up a process for consumers to apply for restitution. In the meantime, consumers with questions can call Blumenthal’s office at (860) 808-5400.
DIRECTV will pay the states $13.25 million for legal and other costs associated with the case. Connecticut and 41 other states will receive $185,000 each from that payment.