In November 2006 I bought a very expensive high definition DirecTV receiver with TiVO HD; it was about $1500 all told. At that time, I was told by the authorized DirecTV vendor (Weaknees.com, in West LA) “not only does this work great now, but it’ll get better when DirecTV adds 100 HD channels by the end of 2007!” Which they did. The only catch? Those channels are in MPEG 4 format, and the TiVO only understands MPEG 2. In essence, DirecTV turned my TiVO into a very expensive brick. BTW, after this happened Weaknees told me they’d been blind-sided by DirecTV as well, and had no advance warning the company was changing protocols in order to increase its HD channel lineup. I believe them, as I know several people there and find them to be reputable.
To make matters worse, DirecTV also dumped the TiVO platform in favor of their own DVR, conveniently made for them by another Rupert Murdoch-owned company, NDS. Every web site and gadget guru that have reviewed these models (the HR20 and HR21) all conclude they are sub-standard when compared to a TiVO. Even DirecTV’s own installers, when visiting me last Saturday to discuss why some HD channels I was receiving are no longer there said the same thing. “Dude, our unit totally sucks compared to a TiVO.” And a few months ago, when I talked to a DirecTV Technical Support rep on the phone, he told me, “If you’re a TIVO fan, you’re going to hate our unit. But if you don’t swap your TiVO for our DVR, you won’t be able to view or record HD shows anymore.”
I bit the bullet and decided to take a $1500 loss and dump DirecTV in favor of Charter Cable. When I called to cancel my DirecTV account, I was informed I would have to pay an early cancellation fee of approx. $137.50 because I was terminating my contract before November 2008! (I actually never signed a contract; there is small print on the installer's worksheet.) My credit card was already charged by the time I wrote this. I was also told I’d have to contact another dept. to dispute this decision, which I did. And here’s what they wrote back:
Billing Dispute -- Early cancellation fee.
Response (Ivy C) 01/08/2008 03:17 PM
Dear Mr. Gruberman,
Thanks for writing about your DIRECTV bill. I'm sorry to hear that you canceled your DIRECTV account because of the recent changes we have had for DIRECTV HD System.
When I reviewed your account, I found that we did our best to give you all possible offers you can get to continually receive all the HD programming. Unfortunately, you declined our offers and canceled your DIRECTV account. Because we significantly discount the price of equipment and installations, we ask you to keep your programming for at least 18 months for standard receivers / 2 years for DVR, HD, and HD-DVR receivers. I have reviewed your account and I see that you activated equipment on 11/07/2006 and per the terms of your activation offer you agreed to a 2 year programming commitment. Since you did not maintain the minimum program requirements we have charged an early cancellation fee of $12.50 per month not completed to your account.
For more information on programming commitments please visit our web site at directv.com/agreements. If you want to continue disputing the early cancellation fee, please write to:
Attn: Billing Disputes
P.O. Box 6550
Greenwood Village, CO [protected]
Employee ID [protected]
DIRECTV Customer Service
Just because they offered me a solution doesn't mean I had to take it, as it was a lousy solution! Then to charge me because THEY changed the deal, but they claimed I didn't cooperate with them? It's not right.