Los Angeles, CA: A lawsuit by DIRECT TV customers who were illegally charged "early cancellation penalties"--fees of up to $480-- has been granted "class action" status by a California court, potentially leading to millions of dollars in refunds. DIRECTTV is the largest satellite TV provider in the US with over 16 million customers and its principal place of business in located in El Segundo, CA.
The suit, filed in September 2008, was certified April 22, 2011, on behalf of DIRECTTV customers who were charged a cancellation penalty when they cancelled service. DIRECTTV applied its unlawful penalty provision to all of its customers including, in some cases, customers who terminated because the satellite equipment stopped working or they were no longer able to receive service when they moved. IN other cases DIRECTV would unilaterally extend to a consumer's "programming commitment" by a year or two if malfunctioning equipment needed to be replaced or the customer decided to upgrade receivers and then charge the fee if the customer stopped service after that. In some cases, according to the suit, DIRECTTV took the fees from their customers' bank or credit card accounts without their permission.
The lawsuit alleges that the fees are illegal under California's consumer protection laws. Certification of the class action means that all California consumers who were victimized by DIRECTTV's unlawful actions and do not choose to opt out of the action will be represented in litigation.