updated 07:57 pm EDT, Thu May 24, 2012
Fund settles suit that claimed improper charges
Online media company RealNetworks has settled a lawsuit brought by the Washington State Attorney General regarding the company's practice of charging some users for services they did not want. MSNBC reports that, over the course of seven years, more than 500 people complained to the Better Business Bureau about RealNetworks' practices. As a result of the settlement, RealNetworks will establish a $2 million compensation fund for subscribers who were overcharged between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009.
The complaint centers on RealNetworks' e-commerce practices, which were claimed by the Attorney General to use deceptive pre-checked boxes and fine print that enrolled customers in "free trials" that turned into subscriptions for unwanted services. The suit alleges that some customers were unwillingly charged, to the tune of hundreds of dollars a year, for access to RealNetworks' sports, music, television, and gaming subscription services.
As a result of the settlement, RealNetworks will cease the use pre-checked boxes for subscription purchases, more clearly spell out the terms of its subscription contracts, offer online cancellation of subscription offerings, and improve its customer support guidelines regarding cancellations.
In a statement, RealNetworks denied any wrongdoing, but did note that some aspects of the company's e-commerce practices "were not what our customers expected of us." The company has subsequently established a Consumer Bill of Rights, as well as a Fact Sheet meant to address customer concerns over the case. Customers that were enrolled in RealNetworks' paid subscription products between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009 can go to http://realnetworksrestitution.com/ to see if they qualify to take part in the restitution program brought about by the settlement.