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Direct TV / fraudulent business practices

1 MA, United States
Contact information:

I had DirecTV from Nov 2005 through August 2008. I honestly never had a problem with my service or the customer service until a few weeks ago(Aug 08). I purchased a new flat screen tv, and wanted to switch to HD service. When I called, the rep I spoke with informed me it would be $200 for a new HD DVR and $100 to install a new dish. Thinking this was a ridiculous amount of money to ask me to pay, I asked if they had any specials available to keep me as a customer. He said no. I then called Comcast, my local cable company, who offered me a pretty good deal to bundle my internet and cable services. A week later, when Comcast had completed the installation of my new cable service, I called to cancel DirecTV. I was told that I would have to pay a $400 early termination fee, because I was only 4 months into a 2 year contract. Well, I knew I had a 2 year agreement beginning in Nov 05, but I was long done with that, and I told the rep I was dealing with. He then proceeded to tell me that when I activated a new DVR back in May, that I went to Best Buy and paid for, that I entered into a new agreement. When I had trouble back in May with my DVR, I called their customer service people, who couldn't get it working. The girl on the phone offered me a free DVR, with a two year commitment. I told her I did not want to extend my commitment, and then asked if I went to Best Buy and paid for a DVR, would that require an additional commitment - she said NO. The rep who was handling my cancellation told me that was wrong information. I wrote them a nasty letter that day, telling them I would not pay their ridiculous fee. Below is the second letter I wrote them last week.

August 22, 2008

Billing Disputes Department
PO Box 6550
Greenwood Village, CO 80155

(via Certified Mail)

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is a follow-up to my initial dispute letter sent August 7, 2008 (see attached). On Wednesday, August 20th, I received a bill for service for DirecTV. Since I had canceled the service on August 7th, I called the phone number on my bill to make sure my service had indeed been canceled. Amanda, the representative I spoke with, informed me that the disconnection had not been completed. I found that odd, since I was very clear with the individual I spoke with on August 7th that I no longer wanted DirecTV service. Amanda proceeded to make numerous offers to keep me as a customer, including a free HD DVR, free installation of a new satellite dish, and free HD service for a year. I informed her that when I called on August 2nd to inquire about switching to HD (see attached August 7th letter), the representative I spoke with told me there were no specials available to keep me as a customer, and that is why I decided to switch my service to Comcast. Amanda put me on hold, and spoke with her supervisor. When she returned, she asked what my cancellation fee would be with Comcast, and offered to credit that amount to my DirecTV bill if I would agree to stay as a customer. I told her I am not interested in continuing my relationship with DirecTV, as I believe your business practices are questionable, have received poor customer service in the form of wrong information not once, but twice, and Comcast had made me a much better service offer.

Yesterday I visited the Best Buy store where I procured the DVR I had been using for the past few months. In the area where DirecTV equipment is displayed, there is NO mention of a required two-year commitment service. I took photos of the tag under the DVR I purchased: again, no mention of a two-year commitment. I asked the Home Theater sales representative at the store if he was aware that an additional two-year commitment is required for existing DirecTV customers who purchase equipment from the store, and he said he was not. He scanned the DVR, so we could see what was displayed on the electronic signature pad at the time of purchase. Again, there is NO mention of a two-year commitment. It does say that by signing I verify I am a current DirecTV customer, and that lease fees and HD service fees apply. It does not mention any two-year commitment.

So, my question is this: since I specifically asked your customer service representative on the phone if purchasing a DVR at Best Buy would require me to extend my commitment, and was told no; and since I saw no signs at Best Buy, and no employee informed me, that an additional commitment was required; and since there is no mention of an additional commitment when signing for the purchase at the time of checkout; and finally, since I activated the DVR via your customer service department over the phone and was not told it required an extended commitment, how exactly is it that I should have known I committed to an additional two years of service with your company? Furthermore, I was told I would NOT have an additional commitment, so either your employees are untrained, or are outright lying to your customers. Either way, this is not my responsibility. I upheld my end of the contract I had with you, from November 2005 through November 2007. I notified your employees that I was not interested in extending my contract, and took steps to make sure I avoided doing so.

I was told by Amanda that you will automatically charge the $400 early termination fee to my credit card 7 days from the day of disconnection. Be advised that if you charge anything to my credit card, I will file complaints about your fraudulent business practices with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, the State Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, and the Boston area Consumer Affairs television reporters. In addition, I have contacted an attorney whom I will be retaining should you decide to pursue this matter.

I look forward to a speedy resolution of this issue.

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