CHARLESTON - State Attorney General Darrell McGraw, unhappy with the company's practices, recently reached an agreement with DIRECTV that will offer refunds to more than 1,000 consumers.
McGraw said Friday his office has resolved a long dispute with the television service provider that features account credits and refunds totaling $152,000 for 1,216 state consumers.
"Many West Virginia consumers live in remote rural areas where even cable television is not available," McGraw said. "Thus, consumers' ability to receive network programming on their home satellite dish systems plays an important role in keeping them connected to the mainstream of news and popular culture."
At the heart of the dispute between the two sides was a federal law, the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999. McGraw said the act governed the circumstances under which consumers could receive "distant network programming," which consists of stations like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox from affiliates in distant cities.
Under the act, consumers who have at least a grade "B" signal strength from their local affiliates were only permitted to receive local network programming using a stationary outdoor rooftop antenna.
If the consumer's signal strength were less than a "B", then he or she could request distant network programming. McGraw claimed DIRECTV was not advising its consumers that it could receive the signal strength test and normally denied requests for distant network programming.
McGraw also alleged that McGraw told consumers that "There is nothing further we can do" after denying any requests.
Federal law has been amended, and consumers do not have the right to request an on-site signal strength test. However, DIRECTV still agreed to offer restitution for consumers who complained of the past practices.
"I commend DIRECTV for agreeing to grant this relief to West Virginia consumers who may have been wrongfully denied the right to receive distant network programming in the past,McGraw said."