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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
December 12, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Lee Moore
609-292-4791

 

AG Harvey Announces Settlement with DIRECTV Over Marketing, Advertising Practices

TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced today that New Jersey has entered into a settlement agreement with DIRECTV, the California-based satellite dish television programming provider, that resolves allegations the company used deceptive advertising practices and unfair service cancellation policies.

Under terms of the multi-state Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement, DIRECTV has pledged to ensure that its advertising will be accurate, and that any modifications to an advertised offer will be clearly and conspicuously noted. The company has also agreed to take remedial action against any individual retailer who fails to follow this practice. The AVC agreement, which has been signed onto by 21 other states, also requires DIRECTV to make clear to consumers what channels are available for viewing, and by what procedure DIRECTV will make programming and pricing changes. In addition, when offering premium sports packages to prospective customers, DIRECTV is required to make clear that blackout periods may apply, and that all games advertised in the package may not be available.

Previously, DIRECTV customers have complained about encountering small, nearly illegible print in advertisements pertaining to modifications in DIRECTV offers. Consumers have also complained, among other things, about not learning the exact extent of their financial commitment to the El-Segundo-based DIRECTV until after being locked into a contract. As part of a $5 million national settlement, DIRECTV has agreed to pay restitution to consumers who apparently were charged a fee for not activating DIRECTV in a “timely” fashion, who complained because they paid for, but did not receive, all local channels they anticipated receiving, and who were assessed a fee for terminating service before DIRECTV’s “free programming offer” period expired.

“This is an important agreement for New Jersey consumers,” said Attorney General Harvey. “Businesses have an obligation to deliver what they promise to deliver. Likewise, consumers have a right to be provided with accurate, clearly stated terms of service when deciding whether to entrust a particular company with their hard-earned money. This agreement addresses both of those concerns.”

Other states that have signed onto the agreement with DIRECTV include Tennessee, which acted as lead state for the multi-state group, and: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachussetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

According to Division of Consumer Affairs Director Kimberly Ricketts, a multi-state review group took a hard look at five consumer complaint areas that had cropped up with regularity throughout the nation.

Those complaints included that not all programs advertised by DIRECTV were viewable, not all sports programs advertised in the “premium packages” were available, not all local channels were available as advertised, many viewers had reported poor signal reception and, therefore, a poor TV picture, and that DIRECTV’s cancellation practices were unfair.

"Businesses certainly have the right to advertise their products but they must deliver on their promises," said Director Ricketts. "Clearly disclosed contract terms and conditions are just as important as a clear television image. This agreement ensures that DIRECTV customers really will get what they think they are paying for."

Harvey noted that the multi-state group scoured hundreds of pages of documentation provided by DIRECTV concerning company advertisements, consumer complaints, and employee training practices. According to the Attorney General, the multi-state group determined that DIRECTV’s advertising was, in fact, misleading. For example, he noted, many of DIRECTV’s print ads made offers in large font, which were then modified or negated in smaller font at the bottom of the advertisement.

Consumers with complaints about the terms contained in their contracts, problems with installation, difficulties activating or receiving programming, or termination fees that were charged when they canceled their service may be eligible to receive restitution under the multi-state settlement. To receive restitution, consumers must either (1) have filed complaints in the past with either the Attorney General or DIRECTV concerning these issues or (2) file complaints with the Attorney General or DIRECTV by May 11, 2006. Consumers who wish to file claims for restitution should file a complaint with Attorney General Harvey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, or send to DIRECTV at: DIRECTV Complaint Program, P.O. Box 29079, Glendale, CA. 91209-907 . All complaints must be received no later than May 11, 2006.

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