We'll Downgrade Your Bandwidth 82% And You'll Like It

Mark is pissed at HughesNet satellite internet service for downgrading his bandwidth allowance from 350MB per 4 hour period, to 375 MB per 24 hour period.

Even though his contract says that if HNS modifies billing or pricing terms, customers may leave contract without penalty, Hughes is adamant that he pay a termination fee if he cancels.

We’re looking forward to reading an article in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review called “Companies and the Customers Who Hate Them,” centering on companies’ “adversarial value-extracting strategies.” We wonder if it talks about the proclivity of certain businesses to ignore the doctrine of contracts being void following material changes to them.

Mark’s screed, inside…

(Photo: cogdogblog)


I have been using HughesNet satellite internet service — you’ve probably seen the ads all over DirecTV (who is also owned by Hughes Networks). As you may know, satellite ISP’s limit the subscribers’ usage, generally based on x MB per hour during a period of x hours. DirecWay/HughesNet’s policy before somewhere around 3:00AM April 18th was that the subscribers on the Professional plan could upload/download up to 350MB per 1-4 hour period.

After 3:01AM April 18th, their so-called “Fair Access Policy” changed to say that now the subscribers can download 375MB but in a TWENTY FOUR HOUR period! What’s worse is, if you download more than 375MB in your 24 hour period (which by the way is a rolling period of time — therefore you never get reset to zero unless you unplug your modem for 24 hours!), then you will be rated limited to sub-dialup speeds for TWENTY FOUR HOURS! The rate limit punishment time used to be 12 hours before this new policy came into effect!

I have been on the phone with both the Technical and Billing departments all the way up to Tier 4 support multiple times, who all claim that my service has been upgraded by 25MB and they cannot understand how I’m not happy about the new change! After I requested to be released from my contract, as this change constituted a change of service, each representative told me that it was impossible under any circumstances to be released from my contract without paying the cancellation fee, despite the fact that their Subscriber Agreement policy clearly states the opposite — it is no different than a cell network agreement: if the provider changes the service, the subscriber reserves the right to cancel without penalty within 30 days of the change taking place.

My 5+ hours of phone conversation with them has been fruitless. After reading back Tier 3 billing support their own Subscriber Agreement policy regarding release from contract and explaining to the representative that it clearly stated that I could be released from my contract if Hughes changed the service, the representative told me that he didn’t come to that conclusion after reading it, and that he wasn’t a lawyer so he couldn’t say for sure either way!

The bottom line here is that HughesNet has lied to their own employees, who are then lying to all the customers. HughesNet has taken on far too many subscribers onto their network, thus overloading it. My bandwidth is ridiculous. I’m on the 1MB/200kb Professional plan and I’m at best receiving 500k/80k. Most of the time my speeds are abysmal, to say the least. Tier 4 technical support has confirmed that both their equipment and my equipment are fully functional and will no longer receive any cases from my account!

Frustrated out of my mind, I sat down and typed up the following complaint letter and mailed it to the Customer Support complaint center as instructed by both Tier 3 technical support and Tier 4 billing support. PLEASE feature my story! I’m trapped by these weasels!

———————————————————-

ATTN: Customer Service / Billing / Complaints
HughesNet
11717 Exploration Lane
Germantown, Maryland 20876

To Whom It May or May Not Concern:

On April 19th, I learned of your recent change of the Fair Access Policy beginning on April 18th. According to the explanation of the changes in policy on HughesNet’s Customer Service pages, I would be granted an additional 25MB toward my Download Threshold, for a total of 375MB on my DW7000 Professional plan. Your previous FAP granted me 350MB to use within a 1-4 hour period, so, upon seeing this 25MB increase, I was initially excited at my newfound bandwidth.

Unfortunately, that excitement quickly faded as I became suspicious as to why such an increase would be given to me. Certainly, I concluded, this could not be because HughesNet had struck a large deposit of bandwidth in the abundant bandwidth fields of West Texas and, overcome with benevolence towards its subscribers, had extended the blessings to one such as myself. My suspicion was confirmed as I surfed my way through the bowels of the Customer Service pages to discover that the recovery period had now been doubled from the previous 12 hours to 24 hours.

At that point, I realized how misleading and deceitful the initial announcement had been. Let me make it clear that I am not opposed to the institution of the Fair Access Policy. I am merely opposed to the changes HNS has recently made to that policy. The fact of the matter is that you have overloaded your system with subscribers to the point that the 12 hour threshold punishment period isn’t releasing enough bandwidth into the commune for the other subscribers. So, under the guise of upgrading your service, you actually placed harsher restrictions on the customers. But it gets worse.

You have also failed to mention anywhere on your website that along with the new 24 hour recovery period (which, by the way, was not presented as a change), the period of time in which you may not exceed your download threshold has increased from 1-4 hours to an astounding 24 hours! A quick calculation will demonstrate that this effectively decreases the amount of data you may download in any given day by 82%. If I was able to download 350mb during a 1-4 hour period each day, I would be able to download 2,100mb every 24 hours. Under the new policy, I am only allowed to download 375mb every 24 hours! Now, if you’d like to reduce my bill by 82% to correspond with the reduced data limit, I may consider keeping my service. But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? And I’m not finished…

A long series of phone calls (amid random disconnects) all the way through Tier 4 of your Corporate Billing department and through Tier 3 of your Technical Service department led me to the conclusion that you have also been deceitful to your own employees. I spoke with a multitude of incompetent individuals who only served to solidify this conclusion:

Apparently your entire staff (save for one level-headed soul in Tier 3 Tech Support) believes that you reserve the right to freely modify any part of the “[Subscriber] Agreement, the Service or related pricing or billing terms” without allowing customers who do not agree with the new changes to be released from their contracts without penalty. Using this logic, HNS could decide tomorrow to raise my fee to $500 per month and reduce my download threshold to 1MB, and I would still be forced to pay an early termination fee if I wished to cancel my service. This is pure lunacy and is not in line with your own Subscriber Agreement.

2.3. TERMINATION BY SUBSCRIBER.

In the event that HNS modifies this Agreement, the Service or related pricing or billing terms, you may immediately terminate your account and this Agreement. Subject to your payment of the termination charges herein described, you may also do so at any other time and for any reason on written notice to HNS.

Clearly, your policy states that the subscriber will only be subjected to termination charges if they cancel for any reason other than HNS making a change. The clause “Subject to your payment of the termination charges herein described” is implicitly referring to the subscriber’s canceling of the service if HNS has not modified the service and does not apply to cancellations due to change of service. Let me repeat: Section 2.3 in no way, shape, or form states that you will be subjected to cancellation fees if the service has been changed! Your service has most certainly changed for the worse — 82% worse, in fact. Therefore, I am entitled – and demanding – to be released from my contract immediately, sans termination fee.

Sincerely,

xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Angry Customer

— BEN POPKEN

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. mantari says:

    Sure they shouldn’t title it, “Customers and the Companies Who Hate Them” ?

  2. mantari says:

    PS: Send your letters directly to some of the top executives, as well.

  3. Buran says:

    Tell your bank you will no longer accept charges from this company to your account. Cancel the card if necessary and get a new number. Send your cancellation in notice in writing along with your story to Hughes and CC it to your state attorney general and the BBB. Be prepared to retain a lawyer if they attempt to then send you to collections, and read up on your FDCPRA rights in case they try to sue you. They cannot legally stop you from leaving.

  4. lincolnparadox says:


    Bah! Breach of contract, threaten a law suit in small claims. No company wants to bother with a day in court. If they still refuse, cancel your service and sue them for the termination fee, legal fees, plus any fees you rack up switching to a new provider. You’ll win. Also, write the BBB and the FTC right now. If they’re doing this to you, they’re doing it to everyone.

  5. sleze69 says:

    I hear that Hughes is increasing the chocolate rations to perhaps 25 bars…

  6. zolielo says:

    Rolling 24 hours?

  7. swalve says:

    Rolling 24 hours means that for every hour, it goes back the previous 24 hours to determine your overage or underage.

  8. FredTheCat says:

    Wow! I ran into this at my dad’s remote home end of last month…we were installing a couple of new machines downloading software and updates when suddenly his connect slowed to a trickle. Seriously, his backup 56K dialup was faster than what they throttled him to, as if the speed the sat delivers NORMALLY isn’t pathetic enough.

    When he called to check on the problem and had the bandwidth cap explained he was shocked, having never been notified of ANY bandwidth limitation and not having encountered it in his approx. 2 years of use. The way they explained it was that this policy had been in place all along. Interesting to hear that it was an undisclosed change of policy a week before.

  9. emilayohead says:

    Well, a nicely written letter but he blew it by saying “sans termination fee.” I bet they interpret that to mean “Double termination fee” and maybe tack on a “translation from French fee” as well!

    Bonne Chance, my friend!

  10. MikeTheKat says:

    I’ve got HughesNet and its a love hate gig at best. They ahve the worst customer service combined with script reading techs, oh and when I signed on for the “Pro Plan” I was told my tech calls were US based only, yeah only until three months in and then poof, off to well you know where.

    The author is lucky he was able to get to beyond the second leve, they usually just discoonect you accidentally on purpose. The last time I tried to deal with Hughes billing it was regarding their enhanced service plans where they guarantee a truck roll in1 or 2 business days, too bad you have to call before 5pm to get it the next day. If you sign up for that “exhanced service” forget canceling without a fight. You see Hughes Corp (not Hughes Net) bills Hughes Net and they bill you, but Hughes Net cannot cancel the contract only Hughes corp can. So you have to call and call and call to get it done and I even threatened to get the NYS AG on their butts before they finally fixed it.

    After dealing with Hughes Net customer service I realized that a vacation at the 7th circle of hell was a really good time to be had, at least you get a tan.

  11. Bay State Darren says:

    They can ask for the damn termination fee all they want. You have a contract. I hate how companies feel that in any dispute with a consumer that they automatically win.

  12. darkinfero says:

    Mark has everything on his side. The company should know that if they changed the service in any way that gives any person the right to get out of there contract, but i guess the company wants this to blow up.If i were Hughesnet I be getting out my check book.

  13. Havok154 says:

    I can’t wait for the day when everyone has the choice of 2+ broadband carriers. Then they will have to compete for our business, unlike now where most people only have one choice, sometimes with a drastically inferior alternative.

    Once everyone can go from one 10mbps connection to another company’s for the same or lower price, we’ll finally win.

  14. He says:

    Did you try downloading a linux iso or something big to confirm that they are in fact trying to cheat you and not just bad typists? I mean, you didn’t state in the letter how you determined that it went from 4 to 24 hours. At least not that I saw, but I tried to skip the witty parts.

  15. TPK says:

    Just a comment on the letter. I completely understand the pleasure derived from being clever in such matters, and it was. However, it is important to remember the purpose of the correspondence. The first four paragraphs of this letter should have been only one, which clearly and briefly stated the fact that the service had been changed and how.

    Nobody who received that letter cares how clever or sarcastic the author is in describing the “wrong” of the situation. If I read complaint letters for a living, I’m done with this letter by the end of the first paragraph.

    Remember to keep it focused. Here’s what’s wrong, here’s why it is wrong, here’s what I want you to do about it.

    Just some thoughts.

  16. skyhaseyes says:

    I am caught in this nightmare with HughesNet now too. I live remotely on a mountain in Vermont, so a satellite internet service is my only real way of getting online.

    I am a subscriber on the Professional plan. The service has always been bad. Daily I am disconnected and the speeds are never what they should be. But satellite is my only way of getting online where I am, and I had not had a problem with downloading to much until April 18.

    375 kb per hour is no way near enough to live on. Since April 18th I’ve been on “punishment time” several times, bumped down to a speed below 56k, more like 24k for 24 hour periods! At this point my HughesNet satellite is useless. And with out a real connection to the net, I may have to move.

    I’ve been on the phone with them , and they told me I was getting MORE bandwidth now , and that the 375K -24 hour limit was always the policy. They also never said anything about the new expanded 24 hour FAP “punishment time”.

  17. Brad2723 says:

    Unfortunately, for the typical HughesNet customer, there is no other broadband alternative. I used to be a subscriber. Actual download speeds vary greatly from what was advertised. They get around this with only 4 letters: UP TO. I ditched their service the moment cable broadband became available in my area and never looked back.

    I agree with the previous poster. Send a professional and courteous letter straight up to the top. Don’t just complain about the problems you are having with their representatives and your disagreement with their contract changes. You should also clearly specify what it is you want from them.

  18. Husker-fan says:

    350MB changed to 375MB.
    4 hours changed to 24 hours.

    Don’t you you see? Both numbers are bigger, so to their way of thinking you should be happy. Everything is bigger.

    On a serious note, as is the new creedo around these parts … if you’re not satisfied with the CS dept. Escalate, escalate, escalate.
    If you still don’t get satisfaction, escalate to your AG, the BBB, and your local media.

  19. TVarmy says:

    Wow. I didn’t know satellite could be so slow. I’m really glad I’m in an area with cable and possibly fiber soon. I like to install Linux and that sort of thing, so I’d wither up and die on that. If they won’t let you cancel, at least twist their arm to up your speed or something so that you won’t sue.

  20. JustAGuy2 says:

    Just one FYI – Hughes Networks is no longer owned by DirecTV, hasn’t been for over two years, so cc’ing DirecTV on the complaint isn’t going to help you much. The company is Hughes Communications, ticker is HUGH.

  21. afebruarysong says:

    I didn’t CC the letter to DirecTV. Not sure where you gathered that. But at any rate, HSN received my letter and a kind, intelligent soul in executive customer service gladly relieved me from my contract without penalty, and even refunded my last two months of service.

  22. Ben Popken says:

    @sleze69: test

  23. timmaah says:

    FAP details from HughesNet website now reflecting the change

    http://go.gethughesnet.com/HUGHES/Rooms/DisplayPages/Layou

  24. heyandy says:

    The real issue here is the increased window of time before hitting the threshold from 4 to 24 hours. I just ran into it for the first time today. The info on the web site is still unclear and incomplete. I had to dig around and finally had a 1/2hour online chat with customer service. I had to restate my question several times before the rep finally confirmed the change. Quoting myself from the chat- “If so, this is not an increase in any practical sense. It’s like being told your pay has increased from $17.50 per hour to $20 — but not per hour anymore… instead it’s now per day. In reality the threshold is much more limiting than before.”

    Very frustrating to say the least. My only guess is that they lack adequate infrastructure to provide adequate service.

  25. snowbird42 says:

    We are limping along again after the 24 hour punishment.I still dont understand all the bandwidth talk and dont think anyone ever told us that we had limited use.
    At $60 a month too.
    I called Hughes(India) and requested a paper bill. That will cost $5.00 more a month. Then I called my credit card and they said they would back me if they try to access my card. I was advised of a $300 fee if I cancel.
    Im lucky Comcast has just set up shop here in TN and I will go with them.
    I am appalled at the service and now I have a sattelite dish that I paid for.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well I have been having my share of all the horrific experiences of being a hughes customer. I signed on when Direcway first came out with broadband. Paid about $800.00 for my equipment. I have tried to keep my modem upgraded because if I didn’t I began to have problems with the aged modem. Now, since my last modem upgrade I signed up for the Pro plan. Needing the extra speed in the evenings in order to take care of a lot of the paperwork from my business on line at home. Well no such luck. Their peak hours are from 5:00 pm to 2:00 am. My plan should be providing me up to 1500 kbps per second however, during these peak hours I am lucky to see 300 kbps per second. My dial up was faster than this. I have argued and argued with tech support and even pay monthly for home repair. Well this evening after about 4 hours on the phone trying to explain to them that this has been an ongoing problem for the last year since I had upgraded (with speed test results continually indicating this and a home repair only about 3 months ago) I was told that they don’t gaurantee any speed during peak. Well for my speed to drop from 1497 kbps to 98 kbps because of peak it makes me wonder if they intentionally cut the bandwidth during these hours. I could understand a drop in bandwidth but, I cannot understand, not being subject to their FAP, l only getting 90 to 300 kbps. They informed me that even though I had numerous speed test results already that I would have to take several speed tests at various times for 2 consecutive days before they would consider any equipment problems. Oh okay then that means that I come home from work (40 miles round trip) a couple times a day run a speed test, run a speed test in the evening a couple times then get up after 2am and run speed tests. This is total lunacy. The supervisor was willing to send a technician if I would pay the full price. What the **** do I pay monthly for repair coverage for then? I have to admit that when Direcway did own the service they were a lot easier to work with and more than happy to solve your problems. I realize now it was because they were building their customers to a point of overload and then sold it to Hughes. Well if that isn’t a bend me over and don’t even kiss me job. I guess they think I should get up after 2am or get up before 6 am in order to do any work because the rest of the day and evening i get my bandwidth almost completely cut off. I am furious with this company and have the same problem, they want to stick me with a lot of money to get out of the contract even though I am not getting the service. Almost $100.00 a month and I still have to stay at the office until 10 or 11 to work so that I can use the dsl because Hughes can’t give me any kind of bandwidth during the evening and just make excuse after excuse for this daily behavior. Funny thing is shortly after I blew up on them I had bandwidth up to 1497 in another speed test. However, this will be gone by tommorrow I have been here several times before also. Hmmm !! I WILL FIND ANOTHER ISP or I won’t have internet at home. I am not renewing the contract and am telling every one I know what a screw job Hughes is doing to everyone. Thanks for letting me blow off steam. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get the hell out of this contract now I am open for suggestions. Like I said I could understand a small drop during peak but to lose 1200 to 1400 kbps of your 1500 plan is …..%ull&hit !!!!!! Any suggestions email me at cindyholt@hughes.net. Thanks again. :)

  27. RUKIDDING? says:

    As a Hughes.net customer, I can confirm all the above. Hughes is the most DISHONEST large company with which I have ever dealt.

    They pulled the same crap on us with the so-called Fair Access Policy switch. I obtained a list of the board members and sent them a letter of protest, but mostly got back boiler-plate responses. The administrative offices did respond with a “free” upgrade for one year, from 1.0 mbps to 1.5 mbps. They didn’t tell us that part of the “free” was rolling over our contract for an additional 16 months so we couldn’t get out of it without paying the termination fee.

    For the last 4 months, the speed has slowed to a crawl every evening: less than 250 kbps on download and 0 on upload. I called repeatedly and every time was read responses that had nothing to do with the question/complaint and sounded like they came off of 3×4 index cards in Jakarta. Finally, I reached someone up the chain who admitted that one of their satellites that served our region had dropped off the system, so there was a hole in the service every night when the moon, stars and geostationary orbits no longer aligned. When I asked if customers were going to get a partial refund on reduced service the answer was “no.” When I asked how long this was going to last, the answer was “when we can get another satellite up.” The loss of service continues four months later.

    Part of the problem is that Hughes.net knows it has it’s rural customers by the short and curlies. Don’t like it? Tough. Go back to dial-up. Then they have the audacity to appear on television telling new customers how lovely their service will be, when they can’t even deliver to the customers they already have.

    Like I said, they rate as the most dishonest company with whom I have ever done business.