DirecTV Refuses To Budge On $480 Cancellation Fee For Swapping Receivers

We do hate it when our advice turns out to be crappy. Daniel, the guy who switched his receiver only to find that he was stuck with a new 2 year contract, was told by the CEO’s office that he was, as they say, sh*t out of luck.

I wrote a few days ago regarding DirecTv trying to charge me a $480 cancelation fee.

As an update, I called the CEO’s office and was called back 3 hours later by a Steve from the President’s office (208-363-6015 or (800-577-4388).

After explaining my situation to him calmly and clearly, he stated that DirecTv’s CSRs would never activate a receiver without warning a subscriber of the 2 year commitment and that I have to either live out the commitment or pay $480 to cancel the service. I asked if I could just pay full price for the receiver and not have a commitment, to which he replied that I could not. He apologized for the inconvenience and said I had to understand that “it is what it is, sir.”

They did waive the $10 fee for canceling HBO, though, so that’s nice.

Thanks for the help, Consumerists. I only wish I could have provided a more happy ending.

-Daniel

That really sucks. Report them to your Attorney General’s office immediately. We hope you live in Minnesota, because the AG there really hates it when companies trick you into contract extensions. Sorry we failed you.

(Photo:a3r)

Comments

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  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I hate it when a supervisor says that a CSR would “NEVER” say something (or, rather, forget to say something). It happens sometimes, and at some point the every rep is new (or tired, or distracted) so there is the possibility.

  2. socritic says:

    I’m wondering, where is the record for the agreement? do DirecTV have the conversation in which he agreed to these terms recorded? otherwise, where is the explicit contract and who has it? I would ask for proof that i agreed to the contract. Otherwise, how can it hold up in court? saying that he must have is not the same as did with proof.

  3. MDSasquatch says:

    On a good note, you did manage to help me steer clear of this “business”; I am sure I am not the only potential customer they have turned off.

  4. Munsoned says:

    @socritic: Agreed. If DirecTV thinks they have a two year contract with him, I would ask them for proof of that contract, its terms and conditions. Going to the AG is also a good idea. FCC has jurisdiction too–I’d try them as well (especially if DTV can’t provide proof of contract).

  5. joexmd says:

    Take them to small claims court. For very little cost you will come out ahead.

  6. Buran says:

    How exactly are they coming up with proof that he was warned and using this as an excuse to rope him in? Do they have a signed paper that sayts “I agree to this contract”? If there is no such signed agreement, then a bitchslap from the state AG’s office will straighten them out.

  7. jtheletter says:

    @socritic: I 100% agree with these comments. Daniel needs to call DirecTV back and tell them to put up or shutup. If they have no proof – written or audio recording – of the contract then there is no contract. Next step is probably small claims court where I doubt a judge will side with the company based on “DirecTv’s CSRs would never activate a receiver without warning a subscriber of the 2 year commitment”. Having a policy is not the same as having a contract on file.

  8. MonkeyMonk says:

    Wouldnt DirecTV need to record the customer verbally agreeing to the new contract and extension to make it valid? Isn’t this one of the main reasons they record all those phone calls?

  9. mynamehere says:

    I’ve been a DirecTV customer for 9 years and was very happy in the beginning. Their customer service was always exceptional, at least for the first 4/5 years. I can only assume it has become so cut-throat that they’ve changed their entire corporate personality to stay competitive. Frankly, I’m tired of them nickel and dime-ing me and tired of their “evil empire” ways. They don’t provide good enough service to be this flippant about customer service. I wait eagerly for the day my contract expires so that I can move on.

  10. friendlynerd says:

    I’m sure that call was “recorded for quality assurance.” I’ve asked companies to bring out the tape before, twice. They’ll do it, and it got me what I wanted.

  11. Cratin says:

    That is EXACTLY what they said to me…they did the exact same thing to me and then they stated they would NEVER not tell you about the contract. It’s retarded. I waited until the ETF was $200, got out of it, switched to Verizon Fios for $24 bukcs a month, and now I am saving on average $500 a year.

  12. iEddie says:

    Like another poster said.. quit paying the bill. Tell them to prove you signed a contract. If they can’t prove that then there is no contract. And if they start having the collector drones call you, sue them in small claims court.

  13. mxmora says:

    About 3 years ago, I bought the previous gen HD receiver from Circuit City and paid full price for it to not have to get a two year contract with DTV. It worked for about 2 years then the satellite input on the unit magically blew out. So my unit was unable to get satellite signal. Since I was already a subscriber without the forced 2 year contract all I wanted was to purchase the new HD receiver and continue without a contract (I only get DTV for NFL and turn it off the rest of the year). The rep on the phone said that the only offer was get the receiver for 99.00 and sign on to a 2 year contract. I explained that I only get the service for NFL SuperFan package and I don’t use the service the rest of the year (which is true). And I don’t want to pay for the service if I ‘m not going to use it most of the year. After about an hour on the phone with a rep and back and for with the manager there is an option to purchase the a new unit at full price ($399.00) So in the end I was able to get the new box without a new contract. Now I may be a special case because of the way I use the service. The latest scam is that they will only “suspend” your account for 6 months. Well from Jan to Sept when there is no NFL is more that 6 months. So I had to get back on the phone and haggle again with the rep that I want the service disable until sept when the NFL starts up again. I’m assuming that since I’ve been doing this for the last 3 years that they agreed to suspend the account until Sept. Now I realize my case is unique but I do spend a lot of money for 4 months to get NFL. Your mileage may vary.

  14. zentec says:

    This contract nonsense is exactly why I’m starting to take a dim view of DirecTV. I’ve been a customer since 1995 when Comcast couldn’t get their act together.

    I have no problem paying for equipment, I have forked over cash for each of my receivers. Ownership of the equipment makes me a customer than can move, and I’m sure DirecTV doesn’t like that one bit. As my current cable company is catching up (Charter) and digital simulcast is a reality with $1 rental on cablecards, DirecTV may find themselves losing a very long-time customer because I’m simply not interested in yet another contract for a service I want the flexibility of dropping if times get lean.

    Furthermore, I don’t appreciate the NFL Network and the BigTen networks thrown at me as part of the lowest tier of programming and yet National Geographic is part of “Total Choice Xtra”. Great, thanks DirecTV.

  15. PinkBox says:

    @MDSasquatch: Same here. I was honestly considering going with DirecTv here in my area, but reading this has made me decide to take my business elsewhere.

  16. Papagoose says:

    I’ve been a customer for several years – I recently moved and when I called to have my dish installed at my new home, I was provided with newer model receivers. I was never told anything about a contract extension. After reading this, I called, and found that I am now in a 2 year contract.

    Now, I have no intention of canceling as cable is not available out in the woods where I live, but I am pretty angry. I will be calling back later today to complain on principle.

  17. ninjatales says:

    CSR calls are always logged and recorded. Have the CEO check back on that record. If you’re telling the truth, you have nothing to lose but time.

  18. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @ninjatales: A CSR can type anything they want in a log, unfortunatly. The best bet is requesting a recording of the call.

  19. kc2idf says:

    @zentec:

    Furthermore, I don’t appreciate the NFL Network and the BigTen networks thrown at me as part of the lowest tier of programming and yet National Geographic is part of “Total Choice Xtra”. Great, thanks DirecTV.

    You must be my long-lost brother! Dish network did the same damned thing, and it pissed me off. When they made this change, I upgraded my base package, and dropped premium channels to make up the difference.

    (Oh, and I’m not in a contract)

  20. morganlh85 says:

    Don’t most states have that law where you have 3 days to change your mind on any contract administered over the phone? I’m pretty sure we have that in PA, and the original post said he called back three days later.

  21. Chzbgr says:

    I had a similar situation involving the CEO’s office and I managed to get my 2 year contract dropped if I returned the equipment. I got a replacement HD receiver, activated it (being warned of the contract) and decided the next day I wasn’t comfortable with it, called back and cited the FTC’s 3-day cooling off period and after 45 minutes got them to drop it as long as they got their equipment back. Of course, I have been a customer for 6 years.

  22. MumblesFumbles says:

    Glad I read this story… I was contemplating signing up for service with DirecTV but reading this just told me I better not. I used to have their service and then I switched, not for any problems, just got a better deal. Now I will put DTV on my blacklist and not do business with them.

  23. Boberto says:

    Man, it’s like being inducted into La Cosa Nostra.
    “They keep pulling me back in”

    Piss on the dish. Cut the cable. Get a $30 antenna from the shack and don’t look back.

  24. jimconsumer says:

    Listen, I am telling you, they have no means of enforcing this against you. Period. I wrote as much in the first post on this issue. For this to hold up in a court of law they will require either the original audio of them reading this to you over the phone and your agreement (which you say they didn’t do, so they don’t have), or your signature on a new contract, which they don’t have.

    In short, this is UNENFORCABLE. Cancel your service and tell them to fuck off, you’re not paying them. Then follow steps posted here and everywhere else on the Internet to properly dispute the invalid/illegal debt with the collector when he calls. It will take a registered letter and a couple hours of your time. Well worth sticking it to these assbags at DirecTV, let alone the $480.

    This is what I would do. If you want to let them bend you over and screw you right, you can, but you do not have to stand for this.

    Optionally, sue them in small claims court, again using instructions found here or anywhere else on the net. It is fun and easy. Guaranteed they will cave in a heartbeat and you can demand extra money for your trouble.

  25. enm4r says:

    @MonkeyMonk: Yes, renewing a Verizon contract by phone and they will let you know that they are now recording for the purposes of documenting my agreement to the contact.

    If DirecTV isn’t doing the same, and they don’t have a signed contact, they don’t have a case. I’d make sure they’re billing a CC, and then chargeback and leverage your CC’s lawyers. They’ll take care of it.

  26. dvddesign says:

    That’s bullcrap.

    I got out of a contract back in September. I had purchased a HD receiver in April when my satellite receiver crapped out on me. I got a new receiver, and did everything but activate it and they tried to stick me to the same 2 year agreement. I told them that when I returned the box to the store and never used their programming card in the new box (I did it with my own) that there was no way they could hold me to the contract without proving I was still using that box which I proved that I wasn’t (I got the “broken” box to start working again).

  27. kilrathi says:

    It would appear that you have a strong case for taking them to the AG, FCC, BBB, and small claims court. Thanks for letting me know to never get DirectTV. PR at its best/worst!

  28. PermanentStar says:

    Well, take a look at the current “customer agreement” at DirectTV.com…(that’s the link to the agreement itself)

    [www.directv.com]

    This is what it states that about the cancellation fee: (9) Deactivation Fee: If you cancel your Service or we deactivate your Service because of your failure to pay or for some other breach on your part, we may charge you a fee the lesser of (i) up to $15.00 ; or (ii) the maximum amount permitted by applicable law.

    Granted, it also has a mandatory binding arbitration clause, but it also says the terms of the agreement are “indefinite and Service will continue until canceled as provided herein” – but does not mention a binding two year agreement on receipt or purchase of a new receiver.

  29. theirishscion says:

    Well, I called ‘em to get an additional receiver activated in the middle of last year. I didn’t need any hardware, I just needed an old box turned back on. I was told they’d give me a new box and not to worry about reactivating the old box, no charge. I did pay an installation fee to have one of their contractors come out and hook it up for me. Total cost was less than $50 if memory serves. It occurred to me just now that I bet I had a silent contract extension perpetrated on me so I just called them to check.

    Guess what, bingo, 1 year extension. With benefit of hindsight, it makes perfect sense. I got what amounts to a heavily subsidized receiver. Mark you, I’ve been a very good customer since 2000 and I just marked that down to their (historically) excellent customer service. <bzzzzzt> Wrong!

    Well, so much for that. It was nice while it lasted. They’d better hope my DirecTivo keeps working because it’s going to be a Very hard sell to keep me as a customer when it does die. I really ought to cancel service now on general principal but honestly I don’t have the time or the energy for the fight. That and I don’t thing I can get any significantly better deal than I currently am. Grrrr. Just when you think you’re actually happy with a company or service…

  30. chrisbacke says:

    Maybe that EECB should be amended for contacting the AG, FCC, and so on… They’ll definitely have a copy of the tape; whether or not they share it with you is a different story…

    Try calling the CEO’s office again, nicely asking for a copy of the contract showing you agreed to the service. If they refuse, see if you can get a subpoena for the thing. I would think not complying with a subpoena would come with some larger consequences…

  31. scoosdad says:

    @MumblesFumbles: Ditto. Just activated DSL so I could eventually free myself from Charter cable, and DirecTV was on my list to check out. Guess I’ll cross them off as an option.

  32. goller321 says:

    I’ve had this happen to me with DTV as well. When I tried to activate they never mentioned the 2 year extent ion for adding a receiver. I argued until they agreed not to extend the contract.

    Here’s an idea, since they’re being such shmos, set up a couple receivers with a neighbor and split the bill…

  33. hossfly says:

    Damn, i guess they would REALLY hate it if they knew i used a DISH satellite dish on my DIRECT reciever for 4 years and i still have their reciever after i told them (direct) to shove it up their ass because of crappy customer service!!
    And yes, i have DishNetwork now…….

  34. ASGELFAND says:

    You might want to see if there is a recording of your call to DirecTV when you activated the receiver to proved definitively whether you were warned of the 2 year contract or not.

  35. cccdude says:

    DTV is really sneaky. I got an e-mail from them 9 months ago that said “Thanks for being such a GREAT customer. We’re going to give you 12 free pay-per-view movies Just click HERE”. Cool thought I, so I clicked and was taken to their website, with the big “SIGN-ON AND ACCEPT OFFER” button. Well, I sign onto my account and am about to press the glowing “OK” button when I see in teeeny tiny little print in the middle of all their disclaimers “Programming commitment required”. Smells fishy to me. Luckily I was smart enough to call DTV the next day and ask what that meant – and you guessed it. Had I agreed, I would have been locked into DTV for another year. ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT!

  36. jacques says:

    Yeah, I got sick of DTV’s nickle-and-diming policies. The last straw for me was the bait and switch with the HD package and the new HD extra package which gave you the same channels you had been paying for before.
    Good news though, U-verse is now in IL, and they paid me cash for $150 out of the $240 early term fee. Later, DTV!

  37. nrwfos says:

    We had Direct TV until their crappy receivers gave out. They burned out really fast. So we decided to try Dish TV and their receivers are better than the ones we had with DTV. I’m guessing that we had lived up to our contract and got out of it okay. Now I’m wondering if Dish is doing the same thing. No reason to expect they aren’t. The angle of the dish is better for us with Dish since we have so many tall trees around us that don’t belong to us. But I’m betting that when DH put in the HD receiver – he got roped into the mandatory contract extension. And we don’t even watch the HD TV that much.

    I agree with the others about small claims court. Of course Dirct TV is betting that you don’t have the time (or money) to take off from work to do a court dance with them. And they’ll pull the old lawyer’s 1st rule “Delay, delay, delay”. So prepare for that. Otherwise, I’m betting you can win against them.

  38. Knoxjs says:

    Yeah moral of the story – make sure you ask enough questions and be an intelligent consumer.

    I do think thats what this site is about – being smarter than the average consumer.

    Remember to always ask enough questions, its a sure bet to never be blindsided.

  39. PirateWithParrot says:

    I have DirecTV and wish I had never signed the contract. “Yeah, I got sick of DTV’s nickle-and-diming policies” about covers it. DirecTV are just a bunch of crooks and the service sucks. Cable is better.

  40. tacostand says:

    With DirecTV, I always record the conversations. When you call them, the system says that the conversation may be monitored or taped — that is my cue that it’s ok to start my recorder. Get a digital recorder, it’s easier to download to your computer (just in case you want to burn it to a CD for the attorney general).

  41. davidg4781 says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned what actually makes up a contract. To be valid, a contract must meet certain criteria, which are….
    1. Agreement (both parties are fully aware of what’s going on and agree to it)
    2. Offer & Acceptance (they offered service, someone accepted it)
    3. Consideration (something given, such as a discount on a receiver)
    4. Legal (contracts can’t be for anything illegal)
    5.Correct form (does it need to be written to be valid, or will oral suffice?)
    6. Capacity (are the parties actually able to enter a contract (sober and age of majority)

    If you take them to court, you’ll have to prove the contract didn’t fulfill all of those. Sounds like agreement and acceptance weren’t there, but, many times, companies will tell you if you continue to pay your bill and not cancel, you’re agreeing to the terms. There might have been something on the box, or a flier, or something, that may have been missed, but I doubt that’s the case.

    Oh, and no, I’m not an attorney, I just pretend to be one….jk. I did take a couple of classes on Business Law some years back.

  42. Anonymous says:

    The exact same thing happened to me but after requesting several “executive interventions” I git this fee waived. I personally was never told about a contract, upgrade or cancellation fee when I called asking why my grandfathered account wasnt producing an HD signal to my recently aquired HD TV. The rep asked me what model number my box was and after I told him he replied, “Thats an old one we have to upgrade you to HD at no cost to you” those were his exact words. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m getting billed for everything! If I’m not mistaken there was a fee for the Hindenberg going down included in there!