North Carolina Department of Justice
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Prime TV to make good on rebate offers, says AG Cooper

Release date: 6/15/2004

Raleigh: Consumers who were denied advertised rebates for satellite television installation by Prime TV will have a new opportunity to get their money back, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“This company lured customers with a rebate, then threw every roadblock in the way when consumers tried to claim their money,” said Cooper. “We’re going to make sure that consumers now get the rebates they deserve.”

The legal action announced today resolves charges by Cooper that Prime TV of Southern Pines and its owners, David and Annette Hagen, failed to pay rebates for installation costs owed to many consumers who signed up for satellite television service with the company.

Under terms of a consent judgment issued late yesterday by Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens, Prime TV must send a letter approved by Cooper’s office to all consumers whose rebate claim was rejected on or after January 1, 2002. The letters, which the company must send within 52 days, will give Prime TV customers 90 days to file for a rebate again using a simplified rebate form. Eligible customers should expect to receive a letter soon. Prime TV then has 30 days to mail a rebate check to each customer who returns the form. If Prime TV denies any claims, the company must explain why to the Attorney General’s office, which has the final say on whether or not a consumer is eligible for the rebate. If Prime TV fails to pay any eligible rebate claim, then the Hagens are responsible for the costs of providing those rebates.

In addition, Prime TV, the Hagens and any affiliated company are barred from offering rebates to customers for three years. They may advertise a rebate offered by a separate company, such as DirecTV, but only if that company administers and pays for the rebates in full and only if they first notify Cooper’s office. Prime TV and its owners are permanently barred from misleading North Carolina consumers or from misrepresenting any warranty they provide. They must also send refunds to any consumer who has complained about the three-year protection plan purchased from the company. Prime TV will also pay the state $50,000.

Cooper first became aware of problems with Prime TV’s rebate program after several consumers complained beginning in 1999 that they had applied for an advertised rebate and been rejected. Consumers who signed up for satellite service were told that Prime TV would reimburse them $140 for installation costs if they signed up for a year’s worth of DirecTV premium programming. To qualify for the rebate, consumers had to include written proof that they met these conditions. Many consumers’ claims were rejected even though they provided Prime TV with the necessary paperwork.

In 2001, Cooper’s office worked with the company in an effort to improve its rebate program. Prime TV agreed at that time to change its rebate claim form to make it easier for consumers to understand and use. In February 2002, the Attorney General’s Office and Prime TV agreed that the company would notify all consumers who were eligible for but did not receive the rebate to give them a second chance to claim their rebate. Across the country, 2,278 consumers got back a total of more than $300,000. However, consumers continued to complain about rejected rebate claims, with more than 200 consumers filing complaints in 2003 bringing the total number of complaints about Prime TV to 597.

“My office worked hard to try to make Prime TV comply with the rebate promises it made to consumers,” said Cooper. “Now, we’re holding the company and its owners responsible for making good on those promises.”