DirecTV, Dannon settle claims with Maryland, other states

December 15, 2010|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland attorney general's office has settled with DirecTV Inc. over marketing and billing practices and with Dannon Co. regarding unsubstantiated health claims in its advertising.

DirecTV denied wrongdoing but agreed to pay $13.25 million in restitution to Maryland in addition to dozens of other states and the District of Columbia. The settlement also requires the company to change the way it electronically debits money from customer accounts and to make it easier for customers to cancel or change service.

The attorney general's office had alleged that DirecTV misled customers about cash back and free offers and failed to adequately disclose material terms of contracts. The agreement also prevents customers from unintentionally extending their contracts by accepting a promotion or new equipment.

Maryland will receive $185,000 in the settlement, and the company will pay restitution to people who file complaints with the attorney general's office between Jan. 1, 2007 and June 10, 2011. People can file complaints online or via mail or phone. Restitution would vary based on the individual.

Dannon will pay $21 million to nearly 40 states including Maryland as part of a settlement over allegations of unsubstantiated claims about Activia yogurt products improving digestive health and DanActive dairy products strengthening immunity. Maryland's share in the settlement is $425,000.

Dannon also admits no wrongdoing. The settlement requires Dannon to cease making such claims unless it has scientific evidence. The company also has agreed to settle deceptive advertising charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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