I don’t rant often, but I must warn you. There’s a doozy ahead.

My Initial Contact With DirecTV

As you all know, we moved in September. At the time, we signed up for a bundle package through Qwest that included our home phone and DirecTV. When I agreed to the service, I was told by the Qwest representative that I would receive 200+ channels for $44.99 a month, as long as I agreed to an 18 month contract. I asked a whole bunch of questions. In the end, I agreed.

He then asked whether I’d like to receive Starz and Showtime free for 3 months. I said no, as I was sure in the midst of moving, I’d forget to cancel. Plus I don’t watch Starz and Showtime anyway.

The day came for our service to be hooked up. The technician came out and hooked up our service. He handed me a poorly photocopied paper, wrote the web address and customer service number on the paper, and said I’d need to fill out the information online if I wanted an $18 rebate. He then pulled out another paper, and fully explained why I would want to pay an extra few dollars a month for a service protection agreement. He completely explained what that would cover and all the details.

Fine. I signed up for it.

I tried to fill out the rebate form online, but something was wrong with the site, and it wouldn’t go through. I honestly don’t remember if I ever called it in. I was in the middle of moving, and I very well might have decided a one time $18 rebate wasn’t worth the hassle.

DirecTV’s Customer Service

Fast forward to yesterday. I received my Qwest bill, and it was quite a bit higher than I anticipated. Upon further investigation, I saw that I was being charged $23 for Starz and Showetime, and my basic package had gone up to $62.99! I immediately called Qwest, who forwarded my call to DirecTV.

I explained the problem to them. The woman on the line explained that she could cancel Starz and Showtime, but I would have to pay a prorated fee of $17 something. And then she explained that there was absolutely nothing she could do about my package price, because I hadn’t turned in the rebate form within the 60 day time frame. What??? I told her I had no idea that I needed to turn in a rebate form to get the special price.

She then asked if I filled out a rebate, and I told her I’m sure I probably did. She asked how I submitted it, and I said I’d probably mailed it in, because that’s how I normally submit rebates. Then she informed me that that was impossible. After thinking about it, I remembered the aggravating night on the computer. Yes, I tried to submit it. It didn’t work.

Frustrated, I asked to talk to a supervisor. She said it could be a long hold, but she’d transfer me. After 10 minutes on hold, she hung up on me. I was not happy.

I made another phone call and got the same song and dance from a different person. I contacted @DirecTV on Twitter. I must say, he impressed me with his quick response. He took my account number and told me a customer service specialist would be calling me shortly. And someone did.

However, like all the other customer service representatives, she said “the system” would not allow her to make the necessary adjustment to bring my rate back down to $44.95 a month. However, she did assure me that she could offer me a $5 discount every month. $5??? Are you kidding me??? What an insult!

I asked how much it would cost to cancel my service, and she said it would be $320, since I was on a 24 month contract. Did you catch that? I was initially told I’d be on an 18 month contract, but suddenly I’m on a 24 month contract. The sad part is, I’m seriously thinking of paying the cancellation fee, so I can be done with them.

I’m Not Alone

I promise, I’m getting to my point.

One of my blogging buddies, David from My Two Dollars, had the exact same experience with DirecTV. And upon further investigation, we’re not the only two people. Qwest customer service said they had another complaint just like mine yesterday. (And don’t think I’m letting Qwest off the hook. They’ll be getting another call from me today).

A quick internet and twitter search found:

Apparently DirecTV’ s reputation isn’t great in my home state of Oregon, or with the BBB. According to the article, the Oregon Attorney General has received over 200 complaints about DirecTV (“a large number”), and the Better Business Bureau rates DirecTV as a “C”. When I filed my complaint last night, they were down to a “C-“. One more step down, and the BBB won’t consider them acceptable anymore, unless you are aware of the issues with the company.

Charter, to my surprise, has an “A” rating. Comcast has a “B” rating. Dish Network, which I left in favor of DirecTV, has a “B” rating too. I should have read the ratings before I switched my service.

Is it Legal?

The short answer is probably. All three representatives informed me that legally all they had to do was hand over the rebate form, and that was considered fair notification that I had to submit the rebate to get my promotional price for the duration of my contract. That’s it. The form doesn’t even have to be legible. They just have to give it to you. It doesn’t matter if the person who signed you up failed to mention the necessity of submitting a rebate. It doesn’t matter that the person who hands you the form makes it sound like it’s a one time rebate, not a monthly thing.

Is it Ethical?

Not on your life. I don’t know most of the people I linked to above, but I do know David of My Two Dollars. I know that both of us are intelligent enough to talk about personal finance on the web well enough that people are willing to read our sites. Both of us are fairly well educated and I might even add…smart.

I find it strange that both of us would feel taken advantage of by DirecTV. If DirecTV can fool two reasonably tech savvy people like David and I, I wonder how many others have been fooled. And taken advantage of.

Whatever happened to truth in advertising? When a price is quoted me, with no stipulations mentioned, I expect to get that price. When a service agreement that puts more money into DirecTV’s pocket is explained in detail, yet a rebate form that will save me money is handed to me on an illegible paper with no explanation that it’s really important, it makes me wonder if it’s intentional. I can’t say for sure, but it feels that way.

And when I’m hung up on by a customer service representative and told that “the system” can’t help a customer, then that system needs to be changed. In fact, I mentioned that to the “customer service specialist” that I talked to last. I told her that I know of at least two other instances where this had happened to other people, and that if the same issue kept arising, perhaps they need to look into the way they’re doing business.

Her response? “Perhaps you’re right. We’ll look into it.”

Maybe she will, but I’m not holding my breath. And that doesn’t help those of us who have already been taken advantage of.

In this season of our country, when companies are fighting to stay alive, you’d think customer service would be more important. I got better treatment at a used car dealership.

Photo by brianc.