Time Warner Sues DirecTV Retailer

Imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery, as far as Time Warner Cable is concerned. So the MSO is suing one of DirecTV Inc.’s retailers for false advertising.

The dealer is trying to trick consumers who think they’re calling Time Warner into signing up for DirecTV service instead by using “fictitious business names that are confusingly similar to Time Warner,” according to allegations in the suit filed last Friday in U.S. District Court in Southern California.

The action charged that DirecTV retailer LA Activations Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif., is obtaining toll-free business numbers under names such as “Time Warned,” “Time Warn” and “Time Warne,” among others.

“As a result of this ruse, some customers who call directory assistance for Time Warner’s phone number are connected to or given LA Activations’ toll-free number,” the suit said. “These customers are unaware that they have been hijacked to a direct competitor of Time Warner.”

When consumers call the LA Activations number, they are initially given the false sense that they’ve reached Time Warner, and they are then pitched DirecTV service, according to the suit.

Only LA Activations, which claims to be “one of the top-ranked DirecTV distributors nationwide,” is named as a defendant in Time Warner’s suit. Officials at LA Activations couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

DirecTV isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit. And DirecTV spokesman Jon Gieselman said, “We will not comment on recently filed lawsuits or pending litigation.”

Time Warner claimed that LA Activations is using the same “tactic” it cites in its suit against other cable operators in Southern California, such as Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. For example, LA Activations has toll-free numbers listed under names such as “Adelphea” and “Chartar,” according to the suit.

Time Warner’s San Diego division has 200,000 subscribers in San Diego County and 145,000 in areas such as Riverside County and Barstow.

The lawsuit seeks damages and charges trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising and unfair competition under California law. Time Warner also wants LA Activations to be barred from making deceptive representations and unlawfully competing against the cable operator.