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DIRECTV settles allegations of illegal practices; offers restitution

Consumer Reports News: December 23, 2010 05:29 PM

If you believe you've been misled or incorrectly charged by DIRECTV beginning January 2007, you could be eligible for restitution under agreements between the company and attorneys general from 50 states and the District of Columbia. But you must file a complaint with your state AG by June 9, 2011. Contact your attorney general's office for more information.

Under the agreement, DIRECTV must make restitution to consumers who allege that the company:

  • Failed to disclose clearly its prices and commitment terms.
  • Failed to disclose clearly its promotional prices.
  • Signed you up for contract terms without clearly disclosing the terms.
  • Failed to disclose clearly that it would automatically renew a seasonal sports package.
  • Advertised but failed to provide local channels in your programming area.
  • Enrolled you without your consent in additional contracts when DIRECTV replaced defective equipment.
  • Withdrew funds from your bank account without your consent.
  • Failed to disclose clearly that it charged a fee if you cancelled a programming agreement before the end of the contract term.
  • Extended your contracts without your consent.
  • Failed to disclose that their rebates were bill credits that you had to sign up for on DIRECTV’s website.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based company, with more than 19 million customers, must provide restitution or some other relief within up to 210 days of receiving your complaint, depending on how many complaints it receives.

The agreement also requires DIRECTV to change how it does business, including monitoring activities of its third-party retailers, and to pay about $13 million to the states. In settling the case, the company did not acknowledge wrongdoing. In a statement, it said that it already was implementing "a majority of the improvements" called for by the states.

"When our customers let us know there are issues, we proactively fix them on our own. We don't wait for the AGs to come to us," Darris Gringeri, DIRECTV's vice president of public relations, told us. "We want a happy customer. We don't want our customers confused about what they're signing up for and they're getting."

In August, the Council of Better Business Bureaus reported that it had received more than 53,000 complaints about satellite television services over the last three years, most of them against DIRECTV and Dish Network. The bureau recommended that prospective satellite TV customers read the terms and condition carefully, get all promises in writing, check their bills, and mark their calendars for important dates, such as the end of promotional pricing.—Anthony Giorgianni

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