Major Satellite Provider Settles Multi-state Investigation

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that New York has joined 21 states to settle a multi-state investigation into DIRECTV’s marketing and advertising practices.

In settling the investigation, DIRECTV agreed to sweeping reforms in its advertising and marketing policies, to pay restitution to the thousands of consumers who complained about various services, cancellation policies and fees, and to pay five million dollars to the states.

"Consumers must be provided clear and complete information about offers, prices and services in order to make wise purchasing decisions," Spitzer said.

The states commenced an investigation in March 2003 based upon consumer complaints that:

  • Advertised programs were not always viewable;
  • Sports programs in DIRECTV’s "Sports Package" were, at times, blacked-out;
  • All local programming was not available as advertised;
  • Many subscribers got poor reception; and
  • Cancellation policies were unfair.

Specifically, the Attorneys General raised concerns that small unreadable print in advertisements modified DIRECTV's offers and that consumers were locked into contracts before learning exactly what their monetary commitments to DIRECTV were.

As part of the settlement, DIRECTV has agreed to pay restitution to consumers who complained because: (1) they were charged a fee for not activating DIRECTV in a timely way; (2) they paid for but did not receive all local channels they expected to receive; or (3) they were assessed a fee for terminating service before the "free programming offer" period expired.

In settling the investigation, DIRECTV agrees that it will clearly inform each of its customers as to the total scope and costs of the consumer's obligation in the event the consumer accepts a DIRECTV service and/or equipment offer in its advertisements.

DIRECTV also has agreed to improve its advertising by clearly disclosing: additional monthly charges for receivers; any obligations when accepting promotional offers, such as long term commitments and early termination charges; any obligation to activate service or maintain certain levels of service in order to obtain discounted equipment; limitations on availability of local channels, if promoting local programming; and whether blackouts may apply to sporting events offered through sports packages.

New York State joined: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia in the agreement with DIRECTV.

New York consumers with complaints about the terms in their contracts, problems with installation, difficulties activating or receiving programming, or termination fees that were charged when they cancelled their service, may be eligible to receive restitution under the settlement. To receive restitution, a consumer must either (1) have filed a complaint in the past with either the Attorney General or DIRECTV concerning these issues, or (2) file a complaint with the Attorney General or DIRECTV by May 9, 2006.

To file a complaint, consumers may obtain forms by visiting the Attorney General’s web site at www.ag.ny.gov or by calling his consumer help line at (800) 771-7755. In addition, consumers may file a complaint directly with DIRECTV at: DIRECTV; State Complaint Program; P.O. Box 29079; Glendale, CA 91209-9079.

For New York, this was conducted by Principal Attorney Robert Vawter of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

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