Sling Media, the Foster City-based company that makes hardware allowing users to watch television from a number of portable devices, will pay $195,000 in penalties to settle claims it misled customers about its warranty and maintenance plans and failed to register as a service dealer with the state.
The Jan. 4 judgment doesn’t require Slingbox to admit any wrongdoing and, since the investigation, the company has attained an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau for its handing of customer service-related complaints, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutor Chuck Finney doesn’t believe the company knowingly led its customers astray or purposely refused to honor its warranties.
"What we have here is a company that probably just grew too quickly and people were not on top of what they should be doing,” Finney said. "The service department, I think, was not in this country and there were a lot of problems with consumers getting proper responses to problems they had.”
Sling Media manufactures the Slingbox, a device allowing television or DVR-recorded programs to be watched remotely on a computer, tablet or phone via an Internet connection. The device comes with a one-year warranty that includes hardware repairs or replacement of a defective product plus free software updates.
But customers complained the company failed to honor its warranty and the software updates caused the product to quit working, according to the complaint filed in San Mateo County Superior Court.
When consumers complained, they were told to pay $29.99 for help or to buy a new device.
Sling Media also failed to register with the California Department of Consumer Affairs as legally required as an electronic service dealer and a service contract seller.
The situation was a "registration misunderstanding with the county that is now resolved,” said spokesman Brian Jaquet.
After the Better Business Bureau received numerous complaints, it passed the case to local prosecutors for resolution.
As part of the settlement, Sling Media must pay $195,000 in civil penalties and costs which goes to the District Attorney’s Office. The company is also prohibited from making any false or misleading statements about warranty repair, replacement rights and the company’s refund policies. Sling Media must also not offer an extended warranty or service contract or perform any repair or service until it registers with the state.
If the company in the next two years does not resolve the customer complaints to their satisfaction, the company must also enter into independent mediation at its cost, Finney said.
Anyone with further complaints can contact Finney at 363-4097.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.