Monday, February 3, 2014

The Fraudulent Practices of DirecTV

When I was a young kid growing up in rural Alabama, there were two ways to get television reception.  The most common way was with either rabbit ear antennae or with a large outdoor antennae.  With this method, people in my area could receive NBC and later CBS easily (when I was a little kid, CBS switched from UHF to VHF). By moving the antennae just to the right spot, you could pick up ABC and sometimes PBS.  Only later did Fox come along.  The other option was to get one of those large satellite dishes that moved to capture the reception from different satellites.  The problem with the large satellite dishes is that there could be nothing around them to block their reception and often they were struck by lightening.  They were also quite expensive to buy.

So in the early 1990s when PrimeStar came along, you could get a small stationary 3 foot satellite and get most of the popular channels that people could get with cable television in urban areas.  My parents, who had at one time had one of the large satellites, and my grandparents, who only had an antennae, got a PrimeStar satellite receiver.  Finally, we had more than four channels.  However, in 1999 PrimeStar was bought out by DirecTV and put out of business.  For rural television viewers, we now only had two choices DirecTV and Dish Network.  My grandfather bought the equipment to change over to DirecTV and after his death my aunt kept DirecTV, but as DirecTV began to upgrade equipment and offer free DVRs, they refused to upgrade my aunt's equipment or provide us with local channels. (I had moved into my grandparent's old house by this time.)  

Finally, in November 2012, we cancelled the old contract, planning to go to Dish Network. In the process of doing so, we received an offer from DirecTV that we couldn't refuse.  We were offered two free DVRs, local channels, and their Choice Xtra package for $57.99 a month. I called to get the service set up the new service since they wanted us as customers back.  When I called, we were assured that the price would be $57.99 per month.  I specifically asked if it would go up in 12 months.  I had dealt with these kinds of companies before, and I knew what to ask.  I was assured that not only would it not go up after 12 months, but that after 12 months we would receive an additional $10 a month discount and our monthly bill would be $47.99 for the remaining year of our contract.  So I agreed, and the next Monday, they came to set up our service.

That should have been it, with taxes and fees, we should have paid $66.94 a month for 12 months, and then paid roughly $56 for the next 12 months of our contract.  However, this was not the case.  Each month I have received a bill, the amount has been incorrect.  I have called and been assured that it the previous monthly rebates we were getting would be reinstated because they had been mistakenly removed.  Yesterday, however, parts of our service was cut off with a message to call customer service.  So I did, only to find out that we owed $144.  The rebates I kept being told that we were being given to keep our bill at the original price (not even including the additional $10 rebate we were originally promised), had not been applied and the charges have been adding up without our knowledge.

After two hours and seven (yes, 7) customer service representatives, I am finally told by one that informed me that every customer service representative that I have talked to over the past year, including the initial one who set up our account, had lied to me.  She laughed at me for believing them, and said that there was nothing I could do.  How wrong she is, because this is only the beginning.  She doesn't understand that I made a New Year's resolution to be more assertive and not take things lying down anymore.  I will continue to fight the fraudulent practices of DirecTV, and I will spread the word.

When all was said and done, one representative (the fourth I talked to) had admitted to me that this was standard practice with DirecTV and his own grandfather had been complaining to him about it.  This nice young man told me to request that the original phone call be pulled and listened to so that they would honor the original agreement.  According to the DirecTV representative, they really do record all phone conversations for quality assurance and training purposes.  The dispute process takes 2-3 weeks, but the call can be pulled.  However, the last representative who was supposed to be able to do this, told me not only would she not pull the phone call, but that she could not.  They kept the phone calls and they were used for training purposes but it did not matter what was originally agreed to, DirecTV would never ever honor it.

Basically, if you decide to do business with DirecTV, you can be guaranteed two things.  One, they will promise you the world in order to get you to sign a two year contract.  Two, they will not honor that original agreement because there isn't enough competition for them to have to do so.  So this is my advice to anyone who lives in rural America:  do not conduct business with DirecTV.  Dish Network may not be the best service, especially if you like sports, but having dealt with them in the past as well, if you have a problem, Dish Network will do their best to resolve the issue to your satisfaction.  On the other hand, DirecTV will give you all sorts of promises, and will not honor their agreements.  They will continually commit fraud, false advertising, and their representatives will continually lie to you in order to get you off the phone, so that you will have to call back on another day and speak to someone else.


Additional Information from Wikipedia:

Consumer protection lawsuits and violations

Washington State's Attorney General civil complaint

On December 14, 2009 the Washington Attorney General's office filed a civil complaint against DirecTV seeking injunctive and other relief. The complaint was filed in the public interest when the Attorney General's office determined after a one-year investigation by its Consumer Protection Division, that the company allegedly engaged in numerous repeated violations of the state's Consumer Protection Act.

The complaint alleged unfair or deceptive practices which include, but are not limited to
Unclear disclosures concerning rebate terms and conditions,
Unclear and/or unfair advertising for use of the term "free";
Automatically extending contracts when customers require equipment repairs, upgrade equipment or move;
Failing to disclose finance terms and conditions that the company's least expensive package of $29.99 per month is only available to customers who meet certain financing conditions and agree to have the costs automatically charged or debited.
The suit also alleged that some cancellation fees assessed by the company were considered to be unfair, and
That the company unfairly retained consumer deposits made to obtain services. Those who cancel service prior to the end of their contract lose part of the deposit and may also be charged cancellation fees.
The Attorney General's Office asked the court to compel DirecTV to change its business practices, impose civil penalties and provide restitution for consumers.
The case was settled in December 2010, with Directv agreeing to pay over one million dollars, and to correct many of its business practices. 47 other states joined in a similar suit, the settlement of which required Directv to pay over 13 million dollars.

California class action lawsuit

In September 2008, consumers filed a class action lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court to stop DirecTV's practice of charging early cancellation penalties to subscribers. The lawsuit claims that DirecTV fails to disclose the penalty to new customers or to existing customers who replace their equipment or add a new receiver, and that these practices are unlawful. In September 2009, a motion for a preliminary injunction was filed to block the company from automatically removing the fees from customers' bank accounts or charging their credit card accounts without their prior knowledge and written consent until the lawsuit is resolved.

Telemarketing violations

In December 2005 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission imposed a $5.3 million penalty on DirecTV for its violations of federal telemarketing regulations. It was the largest civil penalty the FTC had ever announced in a case enforcing any consumer protection law.


Robert said...

Wow. I'm kinda shocked by this. We've been with DirecTv for ten years now and have never had any issues with the service. We have the insurance package, so if anything ever breaks it gets fixed right away, but we've never gotten the run around from them.

But I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the bill.

silvereagle said...

Joe --- Your best course of action ("revenge") is to post this writing on every web site you can find. Send it to the Montgomery and Birmingham newspapers, etc. Publish it in every way possible. No company enjoys adverse publicity. Not that they will come back and make your original contract good, but it may cost them customers along the way at least.

But, for a legal case, the parties are bound ONLY by what the written documents show. The "puffing" of the sales man is nothing more than hot air. This is saying that "you can keep your original rate and we will even reduce it by $10" is nothing more than "You can keep your doctor if you want to". Sounds good, but of no legal effect. Sorry for the news, but it appears that King Obama may have gotten a lesson from the Direct TV saleman!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your issues with DirecTV. My issue with DirecTV seems to have a similar theme.

I discovered the week before the Super Bowl that I have subscribed to NFL Sunday ticket since last August. OK, maybe we should have noticed the $30+ per month charge but when you pay your bills electronically, it can go unnoticed.

I never ordered this package, I'd never want this package. I guess I failed to opt out of some promotion. Regardless, I view the action as fraudulent. The customer service would not offer me a credit for the unused or unordered service.

DirecTV and CenturyLink are history as soon as I can figure our alternatives. I'm just yelling out to the world about their bad business practices.

Anonymous said...

Unless something has changed, DirecTV and Dish Network are owned by the same company.

All of them are shysters.

Peace <3

David Jeffreys said...

Cable is not better. TWC just keeps upping the rates, despite low come-ons. Dumped them several years ago and started using an antenna. Free TV! Anyway, all that was worth watching is PBS and that is available with an antenna. I don't miss the cables stations or broadcast stations for that matter, because it is unlimited commercials and very little content.

the cajun said...

Having been burned in the past by DirecTV, Comcast, and phone companies, I don't sign contracts anymore. One sided contracts are the advantage of the company not the consumer.

I have had no TV service for 2 years and I am happy as can be. Of course, I keep getting mailings and come-on calls with special offers, but no thanks. Not for me.

Sorry you had such trouble, which is all too common these days.

Dean said...

I dropped the satellite service just after Hurricane Katrina. Every time I saw a government official doing nothing to help the residents of New Orleans, I felt like kicking the TV screen in. Rather than to smash a perfectly functional TV, i cancelled DirecTV. Now I read, make music, opr read some pretty good blogs (this one, for example. I don't miss being a slave to the TV programming in the least.