Direct TV / deceptive practices
I am so glad I visited this site.
The statement below describes what I went through with DirecTV. Others have been through worse, but I figure I may as well chime in. Hopefully one day there will be a class action lawsuit.
Before I first installed DirecTV service about a year ago at my former place of residence in XXX X ST NW, Washington DC 20002, I had a conversation with a sales rep: it appeared DirecTV wanted me to commit for two years. I knew I would be moving after one year and said I'd prefer to go with another satellite/cable provider if I was required to commit for longer than that. The sales rep assured me that I could go ahead and cancel service after one year, and "everyone did it" and assured me that I would not be charged early cancellation fees. Based on his response, I went ahead and subscribed.
Before I called to cancel DirecTV service at the end of May, I had a conversation with one of their customer service reps about how to return the satellite receiver. I asked him at that point what the procedures were for closing my account and whether there were any fees involved. He explained the process and assured me there were no fees.
On 06/04/07, I called DirecTV and asked them to cancel my service. As this point I was informed of a $125 early termination fee. I was shocked. I was told that since DirecTV had provided the equipment and installation for free, since they sent me a “refund form” for $100, I was subject to a two-year contract with DirecTV. I'd never received a refund form. The representative said that DirecTV's records indicated that they mailed it to me and it was my fault for not completing the form and mailing it to the rebate department. I said this was unfair since I am always careful and complete these forms and keep records. They acknowledged that I'd never cashed in the rebate check. I asked them if they could send me the rebate form today and I'd submit it. They said the rebate center had closed.
After several unsuccessful calls to DirecTV (where I got nowhere and/or was placed on hold for thirty or so minutes at a time), on 06/07/07, I finally spoke with a Resolution Specialist named Ryan. He apologized for any inconvenience and then told me that the $125 early termination fee had nothing to do with whether or not I received the refund. Just the fact that I had leased an "advanced" system (Direct TV with Digital Video Recorder) was enough to trigger the two-year requirement. I asked why the previous service representative had focused so much on the refund issue; Ryan apologized and said he might have been confused. Ryan said he would request an investigation by the billing department, as to the possibility of waiving the fee, and someone would call me in the next several days with the results.
On 06/11/07, I checked my credit card balance online, and noticed that DirecTV had charged my credit card $129.05. I spoke with a customer service representative named Dorris. She confirmed that the fee was for early termination. I asked why DirecTV had charged my card without authorization, especially since an investigation was pending. Dorris placed me on hold several times for a total of thirty minutes trying to answer my questions. Finally she gave me another number (I had dialed [protected], the number noted by my credit card charge, to reach her) [protected] and explained that I could reach the billing department through that number as she wasn’t authorized to handle fees in excess of $100. I dialed the number and got the same DirecTV answering system. Dorris clearly had wanted me off the phone so she wouldn’t have to deal with me.
I next spoke with a Resolution Specialist named Lauren. She said DirecTV early termination fees were never waived. When I asked why Resolution Specialist Ryan had told me on 06/07/07 that they are sometimes waived, she replied that they were rarely waived, and only when it was impossible for a customer to receive service because of a lack of satellite signal. I asked why their customer service and sales reps were stating early termination fees would not be charged. She apologized if that happened, but there was no record of such a conversation. I asked how DirecTV could charge my credit card without my permission and she replied that the billing department had determined that it was a valid fee. I replied that they could have sent me a bill for the fee (which was in dispute), but they could not charge my card as I had never authorized automatic charges to my card or my bank account. She replied that DirecTV had sent me a letter, which she acknowledged was sent the same day my credit card had been charged.
When it was clear that she could not assist me further, I asked to speak with her supervisor. I was speaking with a manager named Paul when the telephone was cut off.
Several hours later, I called DirecTV back and insisted on speaking with a supervisor. Clark, who identified himself as “Program Manager at the Billing Department” with ID No. 46284, first apologized. He explained that DirecTV had send a customer agreement in April which stated that DirecTV was authorized to automatically bill a customer’s credit card on file once the customer terminated service. I asked why my card was charged when an investigation was pending and repeated that Ryan, the Resolution Specialist, had assured me someone would be in touch before any action would be taken.
Clark said there was nothing he could do. I asked to speak with his supervisor. He said he was in charge of the billing department, the supervisor in charge. I confirmed he would not transfer me to his superiors. I told Clark that since he was the supervisor in charge, I’d like to describe to him all I’d been through with DirecTV. The phone disconnected.
I dialed DirecTV to find out what was going on. Before the voice prompts were over, I was disconnected again. I dialed the additional DirecTV number Dorris the customer service rep had provided me. This time I got past the voice prompts and the customer service rep answered. As soon as I provided her with my telephone number (that’s how DirecTV looks up accounts), I was again disconnected. Clearly my telephone calls are being blocked.
I never raised my voice, never cursed or swore. I only mentioned that I was considering filing a complaint with the better business bureau and other organizations. I did emphasize that DirecTV provided poor quality customer service, operated in an immoral and an underhanded manner, and their practices seemed unethical.
In the meantime, I never received a satisfactory answer as to why DirecTV charged my card for a fee that was still under dispute. I also cannot reach them to find out how much I owe for the last month for satellite service. The bill online reflects the amount for the whole month and I only had DirecTV operational until 06/04/07.
What happened next? Well I ended up paying the fee. Just decided it wasn't worth the time or the effort anymore. Here's my letter to DirecTv:
P.O. Box 6550
Greenwood Village, CO [protected]
July 13, 2007
Dear Sir or Madam:
Today (June 13, 2007) I have electronically submitted a payment for $129.05 to cover an early termination fee.
I still believe the fee was unfairly charged and DirecTV representatives behaved in an unethical manner from the beginning of my service period to the very end. I, however, no longer have the time to pursue this matter and do not want to risk lowering my excellent credit rating.
Enclosed are my notes regarding this dispute. Please be advised that I have informed the Better Business Bureau and DC Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. I was informed that DC Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has forwarded my complaint to the Federal Communications Commission.
I hope DirecTV will provide better service to future customers.
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