Washington AG sues DIRECTV over its itsy-bitsy fine print

Chris Rizo Dec. 14, 2009, 12:53pm

Rob McKenna (R)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Taking aim at Washington State's biggest generator of state consumer complaints, the attorney general here has filed a lawsuit against DIRECTV, one of the nation's largest satellite TV providers.

Attorney General Rob McKenna said Monday that his office received more complaints about El Segundo, Calif.-based DIRECTV than any other business operating in the Evergreen State.

McKenna, a Republican, said he is suing the company over its allegedly unfair sales practices, including charging hidden fees to subscribers and including within its contracts terms for automatic service renewals.

Another issue is DIRECTV's contractual requirement that new customers commit to a two-year equipment lease and programming agreement, which can cost $480 to cancel.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, seeks to compel DIRECTV to change its business practices. It also asks the court to impose civil penalties and provide restitution for consumers.

"The miniscule 5.5 point fine print at the bottom of a DIRECTV advertisement is enough to give someone a migraine," McKenna said. "Even if consumers used a magnifying glass, they still wouldn't discover that the 'good deal' they were promised came with potential expensive pitfalls."

McKenna said DIRECTV's contracts "grossly favor" defendants, limiting consumers' remedies while preserving the company's right to alter any terms and conditions.

The attorney general's office said it has received more than 700 complaints about DIRECTV since 2006, including 375 this year.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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