McGraw

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced on Wednesday that West Virginia and 48 other states and the District of Columbia have reached a $13.25 million settlement with satellite television provider DirecTV.

The 48 states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The states alleged that the company engaged in "deceptive" and "unfair" sales practices.

In addition to the $13.25 million, DirecTV also agreed to pay restitution to consumers and to alter its business practices in the future.

The multi-state investigation was prompted because the states received "countless" complaints that DirecTV:

* Did not clearly disclose to consumers the price that the consumer would be charged and the commitment term that the consumer would be required to keep DirecTV services;

* Did not clearly disclose to consumers limitations on getting a certain price for DirecTV;

* Enrolled consumers in additional contracts or contract terms without clearly disclosing the terms to the consumer;

* Enrolled consumers in additional contracts when replacing defective equipment;

* Did not clearly disclose to consumers that they would automatically renew a seasonal sports package; and

* Promised refunds to consumers when the consumers would actually only receive a credit on their bills.

According to McGraw's office, the settlement requires DirecTV to:

* Clearly disclose all material terms to consumers;

* Replace leased equipment that is defective at no cost to the consumer except shipping costs;

* Not require the consumer to enter into a supplemental contract when replacing defective equipment;

* Clearly disclose when a consumer is entering into a contract;

* Clearly notify consumers before a consumer is obligated to pay for a seasonal sports package;

* Clearly disclose all limitations on the availability of local channels;

* Not misrepresent the availability of sports programming;

* Not represent that a consumer would receive a refund if the consumer would actually get a bill credit; and

* Clearly notify consumers at least 10 days before charging the amount of any cancellation or equipment fee.

According to the attorney general's office, all unresolved complaints that have been sent to DirecTV or to McGraw's Consumer Protection Division that involve conduct addressed in the settlement and that occurred after Jan. 1, 2007 are eligible for the restitution program.

Additionally, consumers can file a complaint with DirecTV or with the Consumer Protection Division by June 9, 2011 as long as the complaint is about activity that occurred after Jan. 1, 2007, McGraw's office said.

Initially, DirecTV will attempt to resolve the complaints with consumers. If the complaint cannot be resolved, DirecTV shall refer the complaint to a claims administrator. The administrator will then resolve the dispute between the consumer and DirecTV.

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