back to article FTC wants AT&T to kick in $4bn to help balance US budget. Why? Some dodgy ads or something

America's trade watchdog is seeking $3.95bn in damages from AT&T over allegations of dodgy marketing by its DirecTV wing. The FTC this week dragged the US telco into a district court in Oakland, California, claiming the satellite TV biz lied to customers about subscription costs. The case will be heard and decided by Judge …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    With the possible exception of the cancellation fee, Comcast does all of those as well. Of course, if you can read the microtype lettering at rapid speed, you'll find out they do these as well. I guess microtype notification qualifies as informing the customer. Or DirectTV forgot to spend enough in campaign donations and employed enough regulators between spells as regulators.

    1. PhilipN Silver badge

      Small print

      Free legal advice : The smaller the print, the more carefully you have to read it.

      You’re welcome.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Small print

        As per another thread today, reading everything is compulsive in my case. And I read really, really fast. Not speed-reading, just word at a glance instead of phonics or other rubbish.

        1. ratfox

          Re: Small print

          I'm not sure if it's different laws, or the common law system, but when I moved to North America, I was impressed by how often the fine print would contain these little surprises.

          I'm happily back in continental Europe. I do think the advertising is less deceptive.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

            "I do think the advertising is less deceptive."

            Not just the advertising.

            The UK actually has a thing called "The Unfair Contract Terms Act"

            Care to guess what it's purpose is?

            Sadly it seem HMG has never prosecuted any of its con-tractor companies under this.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "I do think the advertising is less deceptive."

              ""The Unfair Contract Terms Act""

              The B2B part of this act is a lot loser than when dealing with the public, the main reasoning is that you are expected to ask a lawyer if in any doubt.

  2. ma1010
    Thumb Down

    Good for the FTC!

    Not only DirecTV, but AT&T. I commented earlier here about an ad mailed to me from AT&T that I would call deceptive. It told me I could get fiber Internet for only $50 a month. But the "small print" (which was quite small) referenced "other required services" which were not named. Nor priced. So here's an ad telling me I can have fast Internet for $50, but it is, at best, misleading as there are going to be other hidden costs.

    Why not just be HONEST and tell me (and any other potential customer) how much your service will cost me each month? Why all the smoke and mirrors? I was somewhat interested in the service, but the ad was so dodgy (not to mention how dodgy AT&T is as a corporation) that I binned it.

    Why do these corporations think it's a good idea to lie to people and try to lock them into confusing, tricky contracts so they can shaft them? This is good customer relations?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Good for the FTC!

      Why do these corporations think it's a good idea to lie to people and try to lock them into confusing, tricky contracts so they can shaft them? This is good customer relations?

      Simples really.... most sheeple don't read the fine print nor have an interest in doing so. They see the $50 per month and jump without any due diligence. In some ways, it's like decades ago, furniture stores always advertised in shouty letters: SALE!!! Well.. yeah.. everything was for sale but the prices were never reduced. It took a lot of effort to get regulations in place to counter this. It was weasel wording at it's best to play on buyer's emotions. Same thing with the current crowd.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good for the FTC!

        And "Sale" was then replaced by "Special Buy" which the business can say "yes we bought them especially to sell larger volumes at the same price"

  3. CaitlinBestler

    A Cancellation Fee of $20 per month?

    That's not allegedly misleading, that's theft plain and simple.

    A one time $20 cancellation fee might have been reasonable, and something a consumer

    might reasonably expect. But no customer would reasonably expect tht cancelling a service

    would not reduce their bill.

    1. aks

      Re: A Cancellation Fee of $20 per month?

      It remains theft.

      The consumer isn't being offered a refund.

      The government is simply putting the money in its pocket, according to the article as written.

  4. ecofeco Silver badge

    Bait and switch

    It's called bait and switch. It's just a newer version , but it's bait and switch nonetheless.

    Many companies in the U.S. pull this shit.

  5. Phil Endecott

    They could give the $billions to Foxconn....

  6. wsm

    Just typical monopolistic behavior

    I have yet to see another service provider for cable TV, satellite TV or broadband service of any kind that wasn't setup the same way. Anything advertised by every one of them boldly claims a low price for a service you cannot possibly obtain without additional costs at absurd rates.

    When AT&T was the only long distance phone service provider, they would bill for anything they saw fit and let their customers argue over the charges. The local service providers were all in on the game and would add additional charges on the same bill. There was no way to fight without losing your service and getting even more charges to resume the "service."

    Now that it's only one cable company and just the two satellite providers that can provide most TV channels, AT&T has bought into the satellite TV game and resumes their previous attitude toward customers. They seem to believe people are only there to be deceived and robbed in any way possible by the whim of their tiny corporate hearts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just typical monopolistic behavior

      Cox Communications = No BS

      Of course they're a private company.

      Comcast is the worst I've tried. When you sign up, just bend over... why wait in suspense? You know what's going to happen.

      Seriously, I've tried and eventually cancelled every available ISP. They all try to scam you.

      (Unfortunately Cox is only available in SOCAL)

      It's so bad that I've settled with cellular data only (even with slow speeds), and cancelled TV entirely.

      The industry is protected by bribes, ATT didn't get their bribe (I mean endorsement) in on time. That's going to cost them.

  7. Nocroman

    How do I get in on this law suit. Direct TV did what the suit here says and I had to pay for leaving Direct TV for another honest supplier.

    I want to sue for 5 million as Direct TV exceeded the limitations of my medications, causing damage to myself, and severe mental stress on my family, as well as financial; damage due to my being on a fixed !00% disability From The VA for service connected disability.

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