DirecTV has mostly been in the news in recent years for reasons related to its long-term decline. The service has been hemorrhaging subscribers for years, at an even faster clip than most of its pay-TV rivals. Meanwhile, parent company AT&T earlier this year sold off a chunk of DirecTV and spun it off, realizing considerably less value than the telecom giant paid for DirecTV back in 2016.
Now the service is the news for something else: a settlement it recently agreed to with the attorney general of Colorado, which entails DirecTV returning $1 million to citizens in that state.
The fines are related to a 2019 dispute between the satellite service and Altitude Sports, a regional sports network in the Denver area that broadcasts home games for the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rapids. The carriage dispute ran from August to October of that year, preventing fans in the mountain region from watching the early part of that year’s hockey season.
During that period when the channel was blocked out, per the Denver Post, DirecTV continued to charge customers a monthly “Regional Sports Network” fee, which cost between $1.89 and $8.49, depending on the actual location of the customer.
The $1 million settlement will be spread among more than 200,000 Colorado residents, with current customers receiving a $5 credit.
“DirecTV used these fees to take advantage of Coloradans, charging them for services they weren’t getting or were no longer relevant, and only refunding those who noticed and reached out to the company about the issue,” Phil Weiser, the state attorney general of Colorado, said in a statement earlier this month. “Consumers should not be penalized for being too busy to wait on hold to demand fair treatment. Today’s settlement remedies the harms caused by DirecTV’s actions and will provide refunds to consumers.”
The settlement also concerned a fee, $10 a month, that was being charged to customers for HD TV. While that fee may have made sense with HD was a new technology, the newspaper said, it’s long since become the standard for TV.
“Charging this unnecessary, outdated fee was unfair to consumers, many of whom were unaware they were paying extra for a service that was now standard part of programming packages,” Weiser said in the press release. “We are pleased to ensure Coloradans will receive welcome relief from this unfair payment.”
That part of the settlement will result in a “$1 to $3 credit per month for 27 months” for about 15,000 customers, the report said.
“While we’ve reached a compromise in favor of our customers, we strongly disagree with the basis of the challenge,” a DirecTV spokesperson told the newspaper.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.