It Might Be Legal, but It Sure Isn’t Ethical!

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.

84 thoughts on “It Might Be Legal, but It Sure Isn’t Ethical!”

  1. I am suffering too. I took DIRECTV service with Verizon bundle few months ago. Now they charged me service fee for outdoor maintenance. Dish installation is very poor top of my porch. When the T-storms come, dish move and they charge $49+ for onsite tech. I really like to discontinue with DIRECTV. They are proposed me to pay $475 fee for early cancellation.



  2. I have to say in my entire life (now age 63), I have NEVER had such terrible customer service and problem resolution from any provider of any kind. I am not one to complain too much, but the issues I have had with DIRECTV have been numerous, frustrating, and time-consuming — on top of an early termination fee that was through no fault of my own. I am now living with my mother, and DIRECTV keeps telling me that if I switch her cable provider to them, they will credit me the early termination fee. Do they actually think I would be foolish enough and cruel enough to do that to my unsuspecting mother??? This could just be the worst company on the planet as far as business practices go.

  3. Chuck,

    Really? I am ALWAYS on top of my contracts and service agreements, and DirecTV screwed me too. Your suggestions about renting from the library, and getting an antenna converter blah blah blah are pious. I have been to my library, and the selection is outdated, and creepy men lurk in every aisle waiting to bug me while I make a selection. In a world where we are safer in the home than out there with weirdos like you, I would much appreciate getting what I pay for, and paying what I was quoted. So go sell righteousness elsewhere because the big company’s always win, and young, single folks on a budget pay the way. ALWAYS. Directv will do anything to get a friggin dollar out of anyone, backed by there “customer promise” which is as empty as your argument. These people aren’t stupid.

  4. I signed an agreement with DirectTV in January, 21st 2010 for 24 months. At that time I signed for one DVR and two basic receivers and after about ten months, I called customer service and ask if I can upgrade one of my receivers to HD one.
    I was told that if I do so I would have to either rent one from them for $99.00 with the contract change in sense that contract will start again from the date of upgrade or I can by my own without changing the contract.
    They told me that the price to buy it from them is about $380 (without changing the contract), but since that was too expensive for me, I asked what would happened if I find one by my own and buy it for less price. I was told that I can do so and my contract will not change.
    So, after looking around, I found one for $160 and called DirectTv customer service again to double check that my contract will not change.
    I was told that this is correct, I can go ahead, by the HD receiver, return one that I got from DirectTV, active mine and the contract WILL NOT CHANGE. Before I bought it I called them again just to double check since I have heard that DorectTV is capable of doing some bad things to their customers.
    I did so, but after a year I called customer service to talk about some another issue and I found out that they changed my contract, starting from the date they activated MY OWN receiver. After I asked what is going on, I was told that since I paid for receiver less than $200 something ?!, it is still considered that that receiver belongs to DirectTV and that this is, actually, only renting their equipment. I was shocked since nobody mentioned that ā€“ I was only told that if I buy my own (no price mentioned, whatsoever !) it is mine and the contract will not change on activation.
    By the way, the third party that I bought HD receiver from is NOT their office at all ā€“ that is just a third party shop that has all kind of receivers for DirectTV, Dish network and such.

  5. DirecTV- similar bad experience. My husband and I had locked our credit so when I signed up with DirecTV I was told I had to “deposit” $300 with them that they would refund at $5 a month (because they couldn’t run a credit check on us). I then signed a 2 year contract with them. 2 years later, I called to cancel service (contract was up) and I asked that the remainder of my “deposit” ($180) be returned. They said they could not do that because what I was told was a “deposit” 2 years earlier was actually a “fee”, that they are entitled to collect and refund as they deem appropriate- at $5 a month, effectively converting my 2 year agreeed upon contract into an actual 5 year contract. I was so fed up with the high cable bills, mediocre programming (riddled with ads), and clumsy remote that I took the $180 loss. Buyer beware indeed!

  6. @Julie- That would be super frustrating, really believe you me that I would not handle that. I don’t care if it is satellite, cable or my microwave I would not put up with it! Now that that is out of the way, if you have to continuously reset the receiver, and the DVR functions do not work that typically means their is hard drive failure and that you do need a new receiver. If you call in and ask for a new receiver, or a technician make sure you understand all restrictions and guidelines because DirecTV is known for extending customer contracts without notifying the customer prior. They will install the equipment happily (if you ever get a CSR that cares to do so) and then once you think your contract is up you will be surprised with the extension. On top of that, you NEED to send that receiver in and tell them you DO NOT want to be charged the service fee on it ($7-$21 depending on model), for the time it hasn’t been working. Which in their notes they should be able to see when the problem first started, don’t let them fool you!! Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you in your adventures of trying to find a new provider, and get DirecTV to pay you what is owed!

  7. I cringe when I think of watching TV in my bedroom because it will start with hitting the red button for a reset. Then who knows how long I can watch TV untill I hit reset again. None of my shows will record, this has been happening for 6 months. I explain to Mark in Oregon, that I am not happy, that I travel& that instead of calling I just use the Living room TV. I dream about a time when I have a service provider who cares. Mark explains that he will charge me if he sends someone out to fix the problem even though I pay the $5.99 a month for that service. I need to troubleshoot with him. He says, that the last time I called in was Dec. 9th & then three months before. I explained that I have resigned myself to my living room or resetting the red button &then going through the tips/tricks I was emailed. Iā€™m calling to get someone out, so I can resolve this. He insists on helping me troubleshoot- I give in- he tells me to reset the red button. I will not renew in Sept.-but as Mark explained-DirectTv does not care how much I pay or that I have to call in every time to use the satellite reciever. Just hit the red reset button, finish the contract and go somewhere else to get cable.

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