DirecTV's "3-Day No Risk Trial" Actually Full Of Risks And Charges

Reader D signed up for what he thought was a 3-day no risk trial period with DirecTV. Dissatisfied with the picture quality, he canceled two days later and returned the receiver.

Now he’s getting all sorts of charges and bills. Equipment charges, activation fees, early cancellation fees, and even something called a “Reversal-Cancellation fee.”

A series of phone calls later, he’s gotten conflicting stories and is now sending an official letter to DirecTV to let them know he doesn’t owe them a damn thing. His letter, inside…

(Photo: cmorran123)


April 3, 2007
DirecTV Incorporated
Attn: Billing Disputes
PO Box 6550
Greenwood Village, CO
80155-6550

RE: Acct XXXXXXXX

Dear Sir or Madam:

When I switched to Verizon recently, they encouraged me to also try Direct TV. I signed up for the service as I was told there was a 3-day no risk trial period. The service was installed on 1/27/2007. I was not satisfied with the picture quality and called on 1/29/2007 to cancel the service. I was told I would be sent a box to return the receiver and that I did not need to return the dish itself. At no point during the cancellation process was I told of any fees for this 3-day trial period.

On 2/14/2007 I was looking at my credit card statement and noticed I had been billed in the amount of $127.28. I called Directv to inquire what that was and was told it was a charge for equipment. I pointed out that I had sent the receiver back to Directv and why was I liable for any charges as I had been within the 3-day trial period when I cancelled (I called on day 2 of the 3 day period to cancel). I was told that I was responsible for an activation fee. I asked how it would be possible to see what the service provided without activating the service and wasn’t given an answer. I asked to speak to a supervisor.

I explained all this to the supervisor and he said that I was responsible for the equipment. I told him that I had sent back the receiver and no longer owned any equipment (except for the dish which I was told not to return) and that is why I was disputing the CC charge. He said I could dispute all I wanted but I would still have to pay it. When I continued saying I didn’t own the equipment he said I could dispute it with my Credit Card company and they would remove the charge. I said that doesn’t seem like a great way to deal with this and he said that’s how it’s done and I would probably have to deal with a collection agency. I called my credit card company and let them know that I was disputing the charge of 127.28.

On 3/7/2007, I received a bill from Directv in the amount of $287.00. No indication of any charge of $127.28. This charge was entitled “Early Cancellation Fee”. Considering I was told of a 3-day risk free trial period, I was shocked to see this bill for a service which I no longer had. I signed up for it in good faith with a 3-day trial period, cancelled on day 2 and am now in receipt of a bill for $287.00. The bill also had an adjustment on it from Verizon in the amount of $52.58 which I was credited when I called Verizon.

I called Directv and spoke with Robert (csr# 23768). After explaining my situation to him, he transferred me to Chaney (csr# 100207200). She took my information and said she would escalate this to the billing dispute department and I would hear back from them in 10 – 14 days.

On 3/29/2007, I received another bill from Directv in the amount of $127.28. The $287.00 was debited as a “Reversal-Cancellation fee”. The $127.28 was listed as a Credit Card Payment Reversal. I called immediately and spoke with CSR# 100210787. I explained my situation and he indicated that this bill was sent in error and my actual balance was $0.00. He said I didn’t owe directv anymore payments and that it had been settled as of 3/7/2007. I thanked him for his time and thought the matter was settled.

On 4/2/2007 I received another bill in the amount of $127.28. Considering I had CSR # 100210787 tell me repeatedly that my balance was zero, I was more than a little shocked.

I called and spoke with CSR# 6387. She was very polite but couldn’t understand how the previous CSR could have made that mistake. She said I was indeed responsible for that amount. I asked how I should proceed and she said I had to write the billing department in order to dispute the charge for a service which I had for 2 days (and cancelled within the 3-day risk free trial period) and I had additionally returned all equipment.

I am disputing the charge of $127.28 as I was told when I signed up that I had a 3 day trial period to try out the service. I was not satisfied with the picture quality and cancelled my service on day 2 of the trial. I returned the equipment as soon as I received the fedex box from you. Therefore I am under no obligation for any charges per your 3 day trial period offer.

Please contact me if you require further information.

[Name redacted upon request]

Well at least they got the “trial” part right. — BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. emax4 says:

    I wonder if you can bill them for your time spent on the phone in the exact amount. Have it notarized. When they call you, tell them that you want it in writing that they would like it removed, or to simply even out your own so-called bill.

  2. faust1200 says:

    I don’t know what service you will get that has better picture quality than Directv.

  3. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    DirecTV and Dish have crap for picture quality. They re-compress things to horifically low bit rates so you end up watching what looks like YouTube clips blown up on a big TV.

  4. g4lt says:

    when is a 3-day trail not a 3-day trial? when it’s promised by verizon on another company’s behalf and the other company never had it. however, this does tend to bring up another recourse: if the verizon rep promised you a trial period, you should be able to hold them responsible for their rep’s words

  5. Emrikol says:

    @faust1200: In my experience… Cable TV

  6. jongoesbang says:

    I used to work in customer service for DirecTV. In my experience if you actually ordered the service through Verizon, then Verizon is responsible for getting this resolved. It happened quite frequently that a third party would offer DirecTV service and make all kinds of promises but would not be able to follow through. The customer would then call DirecTV (understandably) when all we could do is redirect them to the company that set them up. If I were you I would get a hold of Verizon (if you haven’t already) and find out what is going on. If they tell you to call DirecTV let them know that they made you the offer and that they need to have some part in resolving the issue.

  7. eldergias says:

    This is what small claims court is for. It will cost them more money to send a representative to defend them in court, and the court would side with you anyways.

  8. marciepooh says:

    For a long time where I live it was antenna or satellite. My parents have had good luck with DirectTV and bad when they tried to switch to cable (cable kept getting pulled down). I’ve had good luck with DishNetwork. And it does not look like a blown up YouTube clip. That said, DirectTV is in the wrong on this one. FREE TRIAL. What more needs to be said?

  9. spinch says:

    I worked as an “Entertainment Consultant” (CSR) for DirecTV for three months, and my managers would FREQUENTLY tell me to tell customers that whatever DORIS (the in-house call logging/billing system) said was right, no matter how plausible (and obvious to me) a claim was. Fighting for a particular customer over a similar matter (customer getting charged for his three free months of Total Choice Premier) ended up getting me terminated.

  10. RumorsDaily says:

    Does DirecTV even offer a free trial? A brief glance at their website doesn’t show one.

    If the issue here is that the Verizon rep lied to you, I think I’m going to have to side with DirecTV that it’s not really their fault.

    I suppose it depends on the sort of relationship the two companies have. If they’re so close that you have to assume that the words of one will be acted upon by the other, then you’re in good shape. If they’re just too independents, I wouldn’t give you a refund either. It would be like if Baskin Robbins told me I could get into movies for free by buying a ice cream cone, but in fact no such arrangement had been made. It would be silly to hold the movie theater liable for the second company’s lies.

    Go back to Verizon and raise hell.

  11. The Bigger Unit says:

    Kind of like the “free trial” you get at BestBuy with Sports Illustrated and/or Entertainment Weekly magazines…and kind of why I prefer to shy away from “free trials”.

  12. AcidReign says:

    …..The best picture is when you have an old outdoor antenna, good shielded coax. to the TV, and live within sight of the TV transmission towers. Even rabbit ears are pretty amazing at that distance. Here’s hoping that the forced digital changeover on broadcast TV doesn’t include nasty compression artifacts…

  13. mopar_man says:

    I would get back to the Verizon rep that gave you the information about this “free” trial. I’ve only ever heard of getting free stuff from DirectTV when it’s on their terms, like the last couple months of free movie channels my in-laws have been getting because they threatened to cancel their service.

  14. faust1200 says:

    My Directv looks great. It looks better than any cable I have ever seen (example: my parents comcast) and certainly, certainly not like a “blown up youtube vid” I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  15. Scazza says:

    Actually, this guy is lucky, the dumbasses at DirectTV keep billing him, and EVERYTIME he gets his CC to reverse the charges, DirectTV must pay 15 bucks (or w/e the deal is there with the CC)

  16. TedSez says:

    I’ve been very disappointed with my DirecTV picture quality. It was relatively clear when I first got the dish, which leads me to suspect that dirt/bird poop (which I’ve cleaned off repeatedly) have affected it, although DirecTV reps keep assuring me that that shouldn’t be a problem.

    But you guys are also right about the compression rate — because I’ve noticed that the ads they download to my TiVo (which presumably come it at a higher bit rate) look great.

  17. holysmoke says:

    same thing happened to me, canceled and returned equipment to get cancellation fee on bill month later

  18. Charles Duffy says:

    It might be safer, if taking this to small claims, to name both DirecTV and Verizon. (Obviously, not without talking to Verizon first and giving them an opportunity to cure the situation).

  19. Havok154 says:

    Well, I guess I won’t be switching to DirectTV anymore. I’ve had enough of these companies and their billing BS. I went through similar stuff with Vonage and it was a damn nightmare trying to get it cleared up, which ended up with me paying for my 2 months of service that didn’t work. This was while I was under my “6 months free”, which was actually zero.

    I just DirecTV sees that crap like this is losing them a customer that was about to pick up their service. Good customer service is worth more then the service it’s self.

  20. SharkJumper says:

    So, what’s the difference between a “risk-free” trial and a “free” trial? I’ve seen a lot of ads on TV lately that offer a “risk-free” trial. Which, in my ears, doesn’t sound the same as a “free” trial. Seems like there could be all kinds of technicalities.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, but we show here that you signed up for our trial service. We’ll have to charge your credit card.”

    “But you said it was a risk-free trial.”

    “Indeed it is. And at no point did we put you at risk. But it’s not a money-free trial. That will be $147, please.”

  21. aka Cat says:

    I told him that I had sent back the receiver and no longer owned any equipment (except for the dish which I was told not to return) and that is why I was disputing the CC charge.

    Wait, what? Why would you not be required to return the dish?

  22. Okiedog says:

    I’m the D of the anonymous posting regarding Directv. Thanks for the helpful tips and, YES, I’ve also started the proverbial “line of communication” with Verizon. I was hoping Directv would own up to their mistake and clear up the matter first. I also sent additional letters (via snailmail) to the President and SVP of customer service of Directv. I am planning on forwarding those to Verizon Customer Service as well.

    My complaint re: picture quality stems from the fact that Comcast has many Hi-Def channels. I think Directv only had 2 or 3. When I tried to watch a sporting event it paled in comparison to hi-def. The rep said they would be putting new satellites up soon. Ummm, yeah, I’ll just hold my breath on that.

    As far as the remaining equipment is concerned – my guess is that those satellite dishes are such cheap technology that it’s not even worth it to ship them back.

    Thanks again for the comments. Useful info as always!

    Consumerist is part of my RDA!

    David

  23. IndyJaws says:

    DirecTV is nothing but a bunch of asshats in my book. Around 2000, I purchased a smart card programmer/reader from an online retailer for a project at work. Evidently this website was popular with people who would hack the DTV cards to get free programming. It was shut down and DTV got a hold of the customer list. They then called and spoke to my wife (I was out of town on business) and threatened her with a lawsuit for purchasing equipment “that has only one purpose – stealing programming from DirecTv.” Evidently they made the same threat to every customer of this website (and others, I came to find out). The RIAA must have been paying attention, as it sounds like they now use similar tactics. When they called me at work, I threatened them with a lawsuit for malicious prosecution and they never called back. I’ll go with the crap that Comcast offers over DirecTV any day.

  24. Maurs says:

    They want you to leave the dish because they hope that either you or whoever eventually lives in your house after you will be interested in satellite service. Even a small chance of that happening is worth more than the expense of removing and later reinstalling the dish.

  25. oregonsand says:

    After having a terrible time tying to solve a very simple problem with DirecTV’s customer relations-I decided to pass my concerns on to their Senior Management. I managed to locate the Email for their new Customer Relations Senior VP-Ellen Filipiak. She was kind enough to Email me back telling me that DirecTV’s Business Operation Analyst, a woman by the name of Heywot Bitew, would “resolve” the problems that I had and was apologetic for her staff’s actions.
    If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to read the actual Emails on my google blog as it really sheds a light into the attitude and poor customer relations policies of DirecTV. http://oregonsand.blogspot.com . Long story short-Ms Bitew did anything BUT resolve the issue. Seems Ms. Bitew is under the impression that the treatment I received is “not the norm” for her customer relations. From what I can see from boggs on the internet-I beg to differ. Right or wrong-I encourage you to share your experiences by phoning Ms. Bitew or Emailing either Ms. Bitew or Ellen Filipiak with your concerns. I am concerned that perhaps Ms. Bitew and Ms. Filipiak may not be getting accurate information as to just how bad their customer service is-so I encourage anyone that has had, or is currently experiencing problems, with DirecTV’s customer service to give these two executives a clearer picture of just what is happening in this department.

    To reach Heywot Bitew: Email:HZBitew@directv.com Her direct phone line:310-964-6508
    To reach Ellen Filipiak, Sr VP of Customer Relations: Email her at: eafilipiak@directv.com
    And you may want to send a copy of your EMails to DirecTV’s investor relations. Their Email is investorrelations@directv.com

  26. rhanzelka says:

    They have sent 3 technicians out here to repair and it still doesn’t work.I
    have currently notified FCC, BBB, and Attorney General for the state of
    Texas. I will continue to complain to everybody that has ears until the
    issues with your service are resolved one way or the other. Also the last
    technician that came to my house treated our property like a trash dump.
    There are connectors in the yard under the switch box on side of house that
    he cut off (great shrapnel for lawn mower to kill or harm children and
    unsuspecting passers by) and trash on floor from stripping wire etc behind
    living room TV. We have been promised a visit from a supervisor for over a
    week now to settle the issues that have gone on since the poor installation
    in November of ’07.