Beware Of DirecTV's Auto-Renewing Sports Packages

Reader Ted writes to us about DirecTV’s auto-renewing sports packages, specially NFL Sunday Ticket. He says his subscription was automatically renewed even though he canceled.

Because he is billed through Qwest, he didn’t get a notice and is now stuck with the package. He managed to make a compromise with DirecTV, but wanted to share his story as a warning about the perils of Sunday Ticket:

Today I noticed my DirectTV bill was higher than normal, I decided to look a little closer. Come to find out, DirectTV had auto-resubscribed me to NFL Sunday Ticket, although I canceled it after the season last year. Now, it was canceled with no issues or warnings. End of story, right?

Wrong…I called DirectTV billing and was told “Once you sign up for Sunday Ticket, you will always be auto-renewed, and you should have received a notice in your monthly statement that this was about to renew.” I replied “But I don’t get a paper bill from you, I get an e-bill from Qwest, since this was a bundle through them.”

The guy then argued with me about receiving a paper bill, saying “You should still get a paper bill” and I pointed out my Qwest deal again.

He then told me that there was no way I was able to cancel the service once the season began without paying $230 in cancellation (the cost of the season) fees and there’s no way I could get a credit.

When I argued the point that I had no warning about the auto-renew (since I’d signed up via Qwest, I dealt with their billing originally, and nobody there told met his), nor did I get a paper warning, and thus, I should be able to cancel and get a credit, he said “no, we cannot cancel it.” I argued that “it’s as simple as flipping a switch somewhere, you guys have changed/canceled all other channels I’ve asked in the past” but again he said “there’s no way to do that with this package.”

I asked “What if I decide to just cancel DirectTV entirely” and the response was “
We’d be sorry to lose you, but you’re still paying for this Sunday Ticket, no matter what, we’ll add it to your early termination fee.”

Of course, I finally asked to speak to escalation, and was told “You are not going to vent to anyone else but me. And nobody else is going to be able to change this.”

I gave up, called Qwest. They apologized, got me to a DirectTV “escalation specialist”. He said the same thing “It’s policy with sports packages,we can’t cancel them or credit you in any way.”

I asked “There’s got to be a workaround, maybe you block those channels, but instead of putting a cancel in my bill, you just credit me, heck, I’ll even take partial credit under the guise of something else.” Stonewalled…

Asking, “well, how do I cut my bill down?” got a response of “You could kill HBO and Showtime, that’d save you $24″. I asked about those great deals for new subscribers, could they give me that? Nope, new subs only. I finally asked “Well, I’d like to speak to a manager on this policy”

It does have a semi-happy ending –

When escalated to a manager, however, the manager came up with a “new” package that cut my bill right back down to normal, and kept it that way. It means having a bunch of football channels I’ll never watch, but the prices will stay the same and magically, I get 30 more channels from now on. Not only that, she actually EXPLAINED why they can’t remove the service once you have it (they pay for “slots” at the start of the sports season, and they can’t get their money back). When it comes time for the Football package to auto-renew, I’ll get emails now, so I can call in and cancel beforehand.

Aw, Ted. We’re sorry. Maybe you can have some cool football parties at your house? Ted made the best of a bad situation, but there’s no reason why you can’t avoid it altogether. Thanks for the heads up.

(Photo:meghannmarco)

Comments

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  1. this is why I’m glad I signed up via DirecTV itself and not through Verizon as I had originally planned. The DirecTV rep made it a point to let me know that GamePlan and Sunday Ticket both automatically renewed every year.

  2. forever_knight says:

    time to hose pay per view parties at your house to get back at them. or at least record and upload to torrent.

  3. bostonguy says:

    I still don’t understand how you can “autorenew” something that has been cancelled!

    I would have immediately made threats to escalate to State/Regulatory people.

    Do they plan on “autorenew”ing him next year too, even though he cancelled LAST year?

  4. Buran says:

    @bostonguy: No kidding. So would I. “I don’t have that service anymore. You can’t renew what I don’t have. Now if you don’t remove this right now, give me your supervisor.” Then if they still don’t help you, tell them you will report them to the appropriate regulatory agencies, the BBB, and your local government (if applicable).

  5. Killfile says:

    Note: Dish Network’s sport packages work this way too. I used to work there (in a former life) and they made this switch during that time — so in late 2004 or somesuch.

    At that time, and things may be different now, you could get a non-renewing package but it wasn’t the one that the techs were going to sign you up with by default. It’s very probably still available and if you call in to subscribe just ask about it. Price should be the same and everything like that.

  6. happy scrappy hero pup says:

    I just caught the Game Plan piece the day before the season started. i was pissed – was never told it autorenewed. Now that you don’t even get the Big 10 games on Gameplan it seems more ridiculous.

    I guess overall my DTV experieince is better than where I was before (Comcast), but they all generally try to hose you.

  7. TPK says:

    I don’t care what their “reason” is for not allowing a cancel, it sounds to me like he was fraudulently signed up for the service. I would not let it go. Just because they can’t get their money back doesn’t excuse them for signing him up without authorization. What’s wrong with these people? Why do people put up with this kind of crap?

  8. stubblyhead says:

    Of course, I finally asked to speak to escalation, and was told “You are not going to vent to anyone else but me. And nobody else is going to be able to change this.”
    I hate this crap. I got this when I was having problems with a dead cell phone that was a warranty replacement. I insisted on talking to a supervisor, and we were able to work something out.

    they pay for “slots” at the start of the sports season, and they can’t get their money back
    sorry, i have a hard time feeling much sympathy for them on this.

  9. Scuba Steve says:

    “Auto-renew” should throw up red warning sirens that scream DON’T DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY.

  10. Sonnymooks says:

    This is kind of funny, I got the exact OPPOSITE problem, where they cancelled me and didn’t do the auto-renew…..I was not a happy customer that Sunday.

  11. magic8ball says:

    It’s not your problem if they can’t get their money back. If they didn’t get your consent and didn’t notify you in any way, how do they have a right to charge you for this? That would be like the grocer suddenly showing up at my house with a bunch of bananas and saying that since I’ve bought bananas from him before, he’s arranged for me to have some more, which I will now have to pay for because he’s already paid someone else for them and can’t get his money back.

  12. timmus says:

    It’s ironic that I am more scared to give my credit card information to large companies than I am to smaller companies. This is why. When there’s a violation of credit card rules, he who has the gold usually rules.

  13. DirectAnon says:

    Former DirecTV CSR here. When you ask for the Sunday Ticket or any other sports package we tell you it will be auto-renowed, anyways, if you cancel and the cancellation was not applied you have a point and CAN be cancelled, however it is a PITA for us the CSRs and the Customers, SPECIALLY if your bill is bundled (it takes more time for the money to get back to you). As far as I can remember in this case (bundled bill) the only person that can revert the charge is the supervisor because it is not as simple as taking out the package of your account but we have to give you a credit, and for that amount, only the supervisor or his boss can do it. Sorry to hear about your problem, but it can be solved in one call. If a CSR gets cocky, just hang up and call again. don’t try to “report” the bad CSR, it is not possible.

  14. DirectAnon says:

    Now I remember, indeed, even the supervisor can’t give you a credit that high, he would have to go upwards to try to get and it is likely he won’t do it; That’s why he “solved” your problem that way, he gave you a bunch of stuff free and discounts).

  15. Buran says:

    @Sonnymooks: At least you weren’t out actual money and didn’t have to fight to get your money back from scamming companies that claim refunds are impossible. Oh, they’re possible, they just don’t want to (a) give you any money when they’re used to it flowing TO them, and (b) admit they screwed up.

  16. delfuego says:

    As DirectAnon says above, they certainly can cancel something which they have proof you’ve tried to cancel and on which they neglected to follow through… which I can tell you from experience, since this exact same thing happened to me this year. I received a notice on June 23rd from DirecTV that my Sunday Ticket package would be auto-renewed, and called that day to cancel it. I spoke with a rep who handled the cancellation, and I kept a record of the time of my call and the rep’s name. Lo and behold, we noticed this week that we were being billed for it, and had been for two months, so I called and got really annoyed with them.

    The first-line rep was able to see the record of my call on June 23rd, and was able to cancel the package and promise me my refund. She was unable to actually PROCESS the refund, though; she said that it would “take a few days or more” to process. I told her that that was unacceptable, being that it was a refund for a fraudulent series of bills, and she became very resistant. I then spoke with her supervisor, who apologized profusely, promised me that that first-line rep would be retrained (hah! unlikely), and processed my refund then and there.

  17. Sonnymooks says:

    @Buran:

    Actually, I’m going to check my bill when I get it. I want to make sure they didn’t charge me. They’re saying they didn’t auto-renew me (which they were supposed to do). Now what I want to know, did they really cancel me or did they bill me for a service they did not provide, right now they are saying they didn’t, but I’m going to verify it when my bill comes. I am still ticked though over not having watched the games, and the fact that I blocked out time that day.

  18. TheNomad says:

    Folks, you are aiming your anger at the wrong direction. The non-refunds policy is originating from NFL not from DIRECTV. They enforce no cancellations rule, not DIRECTV. DIRECTV pays them in advance for the number of people who subscribed to the package and it’s the end of story. Everyone who subscribes to the this or that ticket package, are told in not so fine print or not like the radio commercial guy speaking faster than the speed of sound, that, the package will auto renew. If your bundled package provider (who in turn benefits from your extra payments) is not telling you the deal, please don’t shoot the messenger, which is DIRECTV.

  19. Brad2723 says:

    After this season, and after you have “gotten your money’s worth” cancel your account with DirecTV. Wait for it to fully close, and then open a new account. Explain that the auto-renew on the sunday ticket is BS and that is why you are cancelling… so that it can’t auto-renew.

  20. Willow says:

    You CAN get a refund from Direct TV!

    A rather long story short…They claimed our account was two months past due when we shouldn’t have had to pay a bill until the end of this month (Nov). I spoke to a rep in Collections who saw from our history the ONLY time our account is active is during football season. She transfered me to a rep named Rachel who …after I expressed my frustration over all the reps I’ve spoken to in the past (early billing issue and the wrong package)…the call avoidance, not following through with a credit and so on…gave me a $260 credit for the Sunday Ticket (Which I received a email confirmation on this morning followed by the the other credits), a credit for the $169 (part of the longer story), and credits for the late fees they wrongfully added. All we are paying for is the basic line up – and that won’t come due until January because of all the money they OWE me.

    Now we use a prepaid credit card auto pay Direct TV. Since the recent attempt to charge the card by Direct TV wasn’t authorized by us (by funding the credit card) the transaction declined. That forced them to call us which in turn alerted us to this most recent issue.

    If any wants to see the refund confirmation emails, I’d be happy to share.

    Lastly, for those trying to get a refund on the Sunday Ticket…it IS POSSIBLE. Especially if it was Direct TV’s error.