RealNetworks HQ. Wikipedia photo

RealNetworks has settled a suit brought by Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna over unwanted charges that consumers received on credit card bills related subscriptions for TV and sports  programming as well as games, according to the AP.

The Better Business Bureau received more than 500 complaints from across the country about the practices. It was connected to RealNetworks’ subscription programs, including SuperPass, GamePass, FunTicket, FunPass and Rhapsody, the latter of which has been spun off into a separate company.

“Deceptive pre-checked boxes and fine print obligated consumers to not-so-free trials for subscription services they didn’t want in the first place,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna in a statement. “People were charged for months — sometimes years — paying hundreds of dollars for subscriptions they knew nothing about.”

A lawsuit was filed today in King Count Superior Court, and the settlement was announced this morning by McKenna’s office.

Herb Weisbaum at MSNBC.com has more details on the case, reporting that consumers unknowingly signed up for subscriptions because boxes had been pre-checked. Consumers who were affected between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009 can participate in the restitution program by visiting this Web site.

Thomas Nielsen

Others are eligible to make a claim if they encountered issues with the charges prior to 2007 if they contacted RealNetworks’ customer service and were unable to cancel service.

RealNetworks CEO Thomas Nielsen issued a statement today about the settlement, and announced that they’ve created a Customer Bill of Rights:.

“The trust of our customers is as important to us as the products we deliver.  Good business practices are part of the DNA of RealNetworks and we are committed to always putting the customer first,” Nielsen said. Here’s more from the statement:

“About two years ago, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office contacted us regarding concerns they had with some of our e-commerce practices. While we disagree with the complaint filed by the Washington Attorney General, we acknowledge that some aspects of RealNetworks’ e-commerce practices were not what our customers expected of us.  More importantly, those practices were not up to the high standards we expect of ourselves. The practices at the heart of the issue were discontinued years ago, prior to the commencement of this matter.”

Here’s the consent decree filed today:

Real Networks Consent Decree

Comments

  • http://faxauthority.com/ Fax Authority

    First time hearing of RealNetworks in a looooong time….

    Can’t think of another pre-tech bust giant that was hyped this much that hasn’t come to dominate a market, go bust, or get acquired by someone?

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    I heard Herb on KOMO Radio today talking about this and have to say I’m really shocked. This is the sort of behavior that you associate with spammers and scammers, not an (ostensibly) established company.

    As someone who deals with reputation management (among other things) their response is  poor. These are big charges with a big impact on perceived trust. The right response in situations like this is one that is equally big in meeting and remedying those claims, particularly making clear why it happened and why it won’t happen again. Simply saying “this happened in the past” isn’t sufficient in my professional opinion.

    On a personal level too, I can say I’m wary of any dealing with Real now. I’m not convinced that they’ve made real changes that would prevent something like this from ever happening again.

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