Attorney General’s Office Investigates Blockbuster’s “No Late Fees”

The Florida attorney general’s office is looking into a Blockbuster Video promotion that promises no late fees, but doesn’t deliver at every store. The investigation was sparked by complaints from around the country.

You may have seen the commercials that began airing last month. Blockbuster Video promises the end of late fees in an elaborate advertising campaign. The problem is many Blockbuster stores don’t honor the nationwide promotion.

Customer Pam Cooke says that’s not fair.

“I think if you’re going to advertise to the country that you have no late fees, then you should honor that no matter what city you’re in.”

The TV commercials and Internet ads do say in small print at the bottom of the screen that the no late fee policy applies in participating stores.

Fewer than half the independently-owned Blockbusters around the country are participating. Now, the Florida attorney general’s office is joining with attorney generals in other states to find out if Blockbuster is breaking the rules.

Spokesman Bob Sparks says the office is concerned about violations of the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“Any type of investigation into unfair and deceptive trade practices is basically categorized as someone advertising certain products or services and then not delivering on those products or services. We’re not saying that’s what’s occurred in this case, but just taking a look-see."

The Florida attorney general’s office says Blockbuster has been very cooperative and the office anticipates a friendly resolution. In the meantime, you might want to double check your local store’s policy before you decide to keep that video a few extra days.

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s attorney general filed suit against Blockbuster late Friday, saying the company is trying to deceive its customers.

Blockbuster spokesman Randy Hargrove told us the 500 of the company’s 5,600 video stores that are not participating in the “no late fees policy” are independently-owned franchises.

Hargrove says the company was surprised the New Jersey Attorney General never directly contacted Blockbuster before initiating the lawsuit. Blockbuster says it’s disappointed in the action and maintains that it has received “tremendous feedback” from its customers on the “no late fee” policy.