When consumers in San Mateo County complained Sling Media, Inc. was not honoring its statements and warranties regarding product services, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office called California's Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFT). That is a bureau with a very long name but there is nothing abbreviated about its strength and power in consumer protection.
"This all stemmed from consumers who complained that Sling Media was not honoring warranties and in fact created failures due to software upgrades to their products," said Lynn Fullmer. Fullmer is a California Association of Regulatory Investigators and Inspectors (CARII) board director for BEARHFTI, an affiliate of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and took on this consumer protection case.
Consumers complained Sling Media Inc. was not true to its word. Sling Media manufactures a device called the Slingbox. The Slingbox enables consumers to remotely watch their home cable, satellite or programs recorded on a DVR from personal computers anywhere there is an internet connection.
After a joint investigation by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and BEARHFT, it was determined that Sling Media, Inc failed to register as an Electronic Service Dealer and as a Service Contract Seller with the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) as required by law.
Sling Media agreed to a Consumer Protection Judgment of $195,000. The judgment, entered without any findings or admissions of liability or wrongdoing, also prohibits Sling Media, Inc. from:
- Making any false or misleading statements regarding the duration of a customer's warranty repair or replacement rights or the company's refund policies;
- Offering an extended warranty or a service contract as a service contract seller unless the company is registered as such with the Department of Consumer Affairs;
- Performing repair, service or maintenance of an electronic equipment as a service dealer unless the company is registered as such with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The judgment also stipulates if, over the course of the next two years, Sling Media does not resolve consumer complaints relating to warranty, repair or replacement issues to a customer's satisfaction, Sling Media must take part in mediation at no cost to the customer and comply with the mediator's decision.
"As you can see from the judgment, Sling will be taking care of the consumers involved, " said Fullmer. " And now Sling is also properly registered with BEARHFT as well."
"This illustrates the vital services that our investigators perform at the BEARHFT," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "Very few people know BEARHFT exists and the role these consumer protection professionals play in making sure consumers aren't getting ripped off."
"As usual the hard working members of CARII, most of which are employed within the Department of Consumer Affairs are out there dedicating their lives to protecting the people of California," said CARII President Tom Ineichen. "The men and women at BEARHFTI are too often making tremendous strides in the protection for consumers which goes unnoticed. It makes me proud to see when their work and successful efforts are acknowledged and the consumer benefits. I hope the people of California see the benefit and that this state agency (BEARHFTI) will become recognized for its efforts. It's important that Californians are alerted and know where they can go to get help and the much needed enforcement actions when businesses are defrauding the consumer."