Satellite television company DirecTV has agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement with California and other states in connection with allegations of misleading sales and marketing practices.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown said the settlement agreed to by him and 48 other state attorneys general was filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court. DirecTV said the settlement involved “all 50 states.”
Brown said the lawsuit settlement requires DirecTV to make full restitution to all victims, although that amount was not specified. He said his office is reviewing 1,136 complaints it has received to determine which California customers are entitled to restitution.
In addition, the settlement requires DirecTV to pay $13.25 million in civil penalties and costs to 49 states and the District of Columbia, obey state laws and clearly state all costs, services, contract lengths and terms of cancellations and refunds. El Segundo-based DirecTV has more than 18 million subscribers nationwide and more than 1 million in California.
“DirecTV won customers by offering special deals with hidden costs and also extended customers’ contracts without telling them,” Brown said.
Brown and officials in other states charged that DirecTV had customers sign what appeared to be service documents, which actually extended customers’ contracts; failed to deliver channels promised in promotions; and changed the terms of promotions, with some customers paying more than expected.
“DirecTV has worked hand-in-hand with the attorneys general to formalize many of the customer improvements we have made over the past few years and are pleased to have come to this agreement,” said Mike White, chairman, president and CEO of DirecTV.
Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog took DirecTV to court in 2008, charging that the company’s “early cancellation penalty” unlawfully removed funds from customer bank accounts and charged their credit cards without prior knowledge or consent. Consumer Watchdog was not pleased with Wednesday’s settlement, which founder Harvey Rosenfield called “vague” and “secretive.”
A statement from the group said its review of the settlement “suggests that it allows DirecTV to continue charging its illegal cancellation penalties and does not guarantee consumers any monetary remedy. … Consumer Watchdog intends to proceed with its class-action lawsuit against DirecTV.”
Brown’s office said complaints about DirecTV conduct occurring after Jan. 1, 2007 are eligible for restitution. Californians who believe they were misled by the company have until June 9 to file a complaint with the attorney general’s office at http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.
More details of the settlement also can be viewed at www.directv.com/ag.
Contact The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184 or [email protected]