SEATTLE – The Washington State Attorney General's Office is suing DIRECTV for what it calls unfair sales practices.
The AG's Office says DIRECTV is accused of attracting customers with ads for low prices while, at the same time, hiding fees, planned rate changes and terms that call for automatic renewals.
"The miniscule 5.5 point fine print at the bottom of a DIRECTV advertisement is enough to give someone a migraine," said Attorney General Rob McKenna in a press release. "Even if consumers used a magnifying glass, they still wouldn't discover that the 'good deal' they were promised came with potential expensive pitfalls."
The AG's Office says it received 375 consumer complaints about DIRECTV in 2009 – more than any other business. It says Washington residents filed more than 700 complaints about DIRECTV since 2006.
The AG's office says a key issue is DIRECTV's requirement that new customers sign up for a two-year equipment lease and programming agreement.
"Consumers aren't aware of the two-year contact until after they've signed up for service," claims Asst. Attorney General Paula Selis. "They don't know that the monthly service charge will increase significantly after a year. They don't know that DIRECTV will charge them up to a $480 penalty if they cancel before the first two years. Customers who weren't able to use the service because of reception problems or faulty equipment were also charged penalties in some cases."
The Attorney General's Office is asking the court to force DIRECTV to change its business practices, impose penalties and provide restitution for consumers.