AT&T defends DirecTV in racketeering suits: ‘It’s about basic fairness for our customers’

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AT&T is disputing a nationally dispersed rash of complaints and lawsuits filed by small business owners, who claim they were duped by DirecTV sales reps into signing up for residential services, only to be coerced into settlements for violating commercial services rules. 

“This is a matter of basic fairness for all of our customers,” AT&T said to FierceCable in a statement. “Businesses that are not paying commercial rates for programming are taking unfair advantage of neighboring businesses that do. We are confident these claims will be rejected.”

Last week, a Garden Grove, Calif. hair salon owner filed a class-action suit against AT&T and New York’s Lonstein Law Office. Perez claimed that DirecTV sales reps approached her office unsolicited in 2014 and installed residential satellite TV service without informing her she wasn’t getting commercial service. 

Perez said month later, she received a threatening letter from Lonstein, demanding a settlement for improperly using a residential service in a commercial operation. 

Perez’s suit is only the latest complaint against these defendants dating back to at least 2013, when the Dallas Morning News reporter on a Richardson, Texas attorney, Susan Elizabeth Wright, who purportedly found a pattern of alleged shakedowns of small-business owners by DirecTV and Lonstein. 

In fact, Wright reported “hundreds” of complaints about DirecTV and Lonstein from all over the country.

In defending the owner of a local diner against the operator and law firm, Wright noted that the installer even admitted that the owner wasn’t informed he wasn’t getting a commercial service. 

“It’s a gold mine,” Wright told the Morning News in a follow-up article last year. “These guys are just sitting ducks.”

Notably, prior to its acquisition by AT&T, DirecTV’s public relations strategy was remarkably similar: “Using residential programming for commercial purposes is a violation of federal law and our programming agreements,” read a 2013 DirecTV statement to Morning News. “[It’s] unfair to competing bars and restaurants that are paying legitimate commercial rates for their programming.

For more:
- read this Courthouse News Service story
- read this Eden Standard story
- read this Dallas Morning News story

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DirecTV accused of racketeering by small business owners