DirecTV Thinks You Need Protection Plan, Won't Take "No" For Answer

Brooks is a DirecTV customer, and he wrote in to warn other DirecTV customers to watch out for a shady “Protection Plan” the company signed him up for against his permission:

  • I was not told anything about a “standard policy” to sign me up for the protection plan upon having warranty work done.
  • I specifically declined to sign up when pitched on the idea.
  • I was signed up anyways.
  • I received the letter stating that there would be no charge.
  • They attempted to charge a cancellation fee for canceling a plan I never agreed to.
  • I had to waste time and energy to haggle to get the charges off, when it really should have been a simple fix.

Read Brooks’ full DirecTV encounter after the jump.

I am writing to let you know about some shady behaviors by DirecTV concerning their “protection plan” in the hopes that you might be able to warn other DirecTV subscribers of their practices and save them the cost of charges that should not be assessed to their account.

I recently signed up for DirecTV service at the end of November 2007. Later in December my area suffered from a severe storm, which blew my dish out of alignment. I called DirecTV about having this fixed. At that time, I was told that they warranty dish alignment for the first 3 months (90 days) of use, which my dish fell under. I was pleased, but out of curiousity asked what would it would cost if this happened again outside of my warranty period. I was told the charge would be ~$75, but if I were willing to sign up for the “Protection Plan” at $5.99/mo it would not cost me anything. I declined to sign up reasoning that it was unlikely my dish would be affected more than once a year, so signing up would provide me no cost savings. In about a week, a service person came out, realigned my dish, all was well.

con_directvagreement_c.jpgAbout a week later, I received what looked like some junk mail from DirecTV. Nine times out of ten I would not have even opened it since it was not in an envelope, but by random chance I did. Inside was the letter thanking me for signing up for the DirecTV protection plan, which as noted I never agreed to sign up for. Upon further reading I noticed, as can be seen in the pictures, the plan purchase price was listed at $0.00/mo. At first I was annoyed and a bit angry at being signed up for this crap without my consent, but if they weren’t going to charge me (as evidenced by the letter) then whatever. However, I was now on notice to check out my bill to make sure no charges were appearing.


con_directvagreement_b.jpg

Upon examining my bill, I was charged for a prorated portion for one month, and a full amount for the next month. ($.60 and $5.99). Of course, I called DirecTV to get this charge removed from my bill, which took a frustratingly long time. The customer service representative told me that it was DirecTV’s standard policy to sign up any subscriber to the protection plan at the time they have warranty work done, which of course was not relayed to me when I ordered the warranty work. After haggling with the CSR for a bit, he finally agreed that I should have the cost credited back onto my bill. However, I was then informed that there was a $10 cancellation of the protection plan fee that would be assessed on this plan that I never signed up for in the first place. More haggling ensued, at which point, the CSR offered me a $5 credit for 3 months (totalling $15) to make up for the mistake, actually making me come out a little “ahead.”

Really, that was not the point though. First, I was not told anything about a “standard policy” to sign me up for the protection plan upon having warranty work done. Second, I specifically declined to sign up when pitched on the idea. Third, I was signed up anyways. Fourth, I received the letter stating that there would be no charge. Fifth, they attempted to charge a cancellation fee for canceling a plan I never agreed to. Sixth, I had to waste time and energy to haggle to get the charges off, when it really should have been a simple fix.

Many consumers may have never opened the sign up letter in the first place given that it looks like junk mail, and therefore would never be tipped off to the fact that these charges would appear on the bill. They might also be lulled to sleep by the fact that their letter says the plan will come at no charge. I imagine DirecTV is charging a lot of people for these plans without their knowledge, and many of these people will never take advantage of the protection. $5.99 might not be that much per month, but if you charge enough people this amount every month it adds up. Also, if someone attempts to cancel farther down the road, they might not be willing to raise a stink about the $10 cancellation fee so long as they are getting most of their money back. This also lines DirecTV’s pockets with money they should not be getting.

Comments

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  1. jadenton says:

    The state attorney general is your friend.

  2. tomok97 says:

    He should feel lucky…I didn’t even get the letter telling me I’d been signed up. I found out when I got my bill.

    And they pulled the same $10 cancellation fee BS with me. And I didn’t have “warranty work” done. All I did was upgrade to HD.

  3. bobert says:

    There should be a law requiring that when you are signed up for this stuff, the folks who do it need:

    (a) your physical signature on a piece of paper

    (b) a recording of you agreeing to it

    (c) some equivalent evidence of agreeing to it online

  4. bobert says:

    Oops… I meant any one of the three.

  5. Milstar says:

    I noticed it on my second bill, according to the rep the “first month is free!” Pissed off I said I’m not paying it and he happily removed it.

    But yeah totally uncool. he claimed it was in paper work but I couldn’t find it anywhere.

  6. morganlh85 says:

    Mail fraud!!!!!

  7. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @Milstar: “the first hit is free, man!”

    where have I heard that before?

  8. windje says:

    No consideration = no contract.

  9. DMDDallas says:

    @m4ximusprim3: You tell us.

  10. BlondeGrlz says:

    My credit card company did something like this. As a “courtesy” they signed me up for fraud monitoring and called to tell me about it. When I told the caller I was not interested, she hung up on me. I called customer service back and gave them an earful.

  11. bohemian says:

    “I was then informed that there was a $10 cancellation of the protection plan fee”

    Knology tried to pull this on me recently. They raised everyone’s rates in January without mentioning it. So in Feb. I call and cancel some of our movie channels to lower our cost back down. Then I am told it will cost me $10 to cancel any of our services even though we have no contract what so ever. When the CSR tried to tell me it was because a tech had to come out to reprogram our boxes I asked what was different between that and all the times he came out to fix the faulty boxes and I didn’t get charged. When she didn’t have an excuse she waived the fee.

    This must be the new income source for telecom companies.

  12. CarMatchPro says:

    Directv is the Anti-Christ. The IRS is a cake walk compared to dealing with them.

  13. markrubi says:

    He might want to check to see when his contract is up. I bet they restarted the clock on him when they signed him up for the protection plan.

  14. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @CarMatchPro: if so, Comcast is the devil, the macdaddy of them all

  15. veverkap says:

    It’s a one-time charge to realign the dish ($75 dollars) or 5.99 per month for the protection plan. Wouldn’t the OP make out better in that case if they took the protection plan ($71.88 vs. $75.00)?

    Maybe my math is off.

  16. crazypants says:

    You think that sucks? Dish Network will charge you a fee of $5.00 per month for NOT plugging a phone line into your receiver.

    So you get a $5.00 monthly fee ad infinitum just because you don’t have your receiver next to a phone jack!

    $5.00 x 12 = $60.00 a year!

    At least with this ‘protection plan’ that DirectTV subscribed the OP to, he would at least get *something* for his $5.00 a month.

    Sigh.

  17. soke2001 says:

    I called DirectTV bc I’m leasing my DVR and my remote died.

    I called DirecTV and they said they would be happy to replace my remote if I signed up to their protection plan. I said no, but my bill showed me the charge anyways.

    It took alot of time to resolve the issue.

    I ended up buying a brand new remote on ebay for $5 + shipping.

  18. hoot550 says:

    Also be warned, if you cancel service, they automatically charge your final payment and any equipment charges they think you owe to your credit, debit or bank account. They do this even if you’re not enrolled on their automatic payment plan, and use the credit or debit card you used when you signed up or used to pay your bill online. For your convenience, of course.

  19. scoosdad says:

    @veverkap: Right, but having the plan and “coming out ahead” assumes that you’ll definitely need to have DirecTV come out at least once every year.

    I think the OP was going to gamble that he might not need to have them come out to realign his dish at all after his freebie visit from the warranty. If he lost, it only cost him $3.12 more to have gambled.

  20. scoosdad says:

    @crazypants: I’m pretty sure that this is a scare tactic by Dish to have your box connected to a phone line so you can use their on-demand system and get billed for it. I had Dish for many years and never had it plugged into a phone line, never ordered any on-demand programming, and it continued to work just fine. That was awhile ago, but…

    A friend just had his house wired up by Dish within the last six months with three receivers, and none of the boxes are connected to any phone jack, and my friend pays no monthly penalty for that.

    It might depend on the installer, whether or not he’s got to indicate on the order record that goes back to Dish, whether or not the receiver is connected to a phone jack. Maybe some of them are less than truthful on that, to the benefit of the customer. I don’t think the phone line is even used to activate the box; my friend said the installer was reading serial numbers over his phone to a dispatcher, and they were activated through the satellite connection (one way only, of course).

  21. Sam2k says:

    @windje: How is there no consideration? DirecTV promises a warranty in exchange for monthly payments.

  22. cccdude says:

    It’s DirectTV – aka Scams R ‘Us – NEVER take anything they tell you at face value. ALWAYS double & triple check your bills and read every word in the fine print of every single piece of paper or e-mail they send you.

  23. veverkap says:

    @scoosdad: Good point. I guess I have the bias that comes from living in a wind tunnel. We’ve needed them a good deal.

  24. Bloberry says:

    I’ve had several very frustrating encounters with DirecTV’s customer service department. I finally gave up and e-mailed the executive office. I got responses the very next day from three different people in that office. The end result was that I got my problem solved right away, and received three months of free HBO, Cinemax and Showtime for my troubles. Not too bad. I wish their customer service department could do something right so I don’t have to resort to the executive office.

  25. ashabanapal says:

    There is no “s” in the word anyway. Anyone who is not aware of this is a moron who deserves to be defrauded of all that they have. Be that as it may, NFL Sunday Ticket’s Superfan Package is a ripoff since they took all the features that made Sunday Ticket cool (game mix, red zone channel) and charged extra. I dropped them after the season ended and will never subscribe again until they remove the Superfan as a separate tier. Screw DirecTV but screw the “anyways” jerkoff in a clockwise rotation with rusty mace.

  26. chrissv says:

    The sheet says “This is a contract” and it shows $0/mo., then it looks like DirecTV is required to honor it…

  27. Hambriq says:

    What infuriates me the most about DirecTV is their voice-operated menu system which is beyond broken. It seems like it is specifically designed to divert you away from CSRs. Most of the time, I get so angry I just swear at the voice command until it says “Okay! Let me get you connect to a customer service representative. But first, could you tell me a little bit about your problem…”

  28. viqas says:

    @Hambriq:

    I wonder if you can baby talk to it

  29. scoosdad says:

    @veverkap: Actually, if DirecTV is like Dish’s receivers, realigning the dish if it’s gone just a little bit off isn’t hard to do yourself, provided you’re not adverse to being on a ladder or up on the roof. You will need a helper in the house though to relay the signal strength readings back to you on the ladder. Dish’s box puts out an audio tone that goes higer in pitch when the signal gets stronger; it’s in the setup/installation menu choice.

    I’ve used a cordless phone in speakerphone and intercom mode to relay the audio tone up to me on the roof when I’ve been by myself, or you could use a cellphone and your inside phone the same way. You just move the dish a tiny fraction of an inch at a time left/right, and when you peak that direction, you move it slightly up and down and do the same thing. Lather rinse repeat and you should have your signal back to normal. It’s tricky when the dish is pointing at multiple satellites at the same time and there might be a third rotational adjustment called ‘skew’, but that’s basically all the installers are doing anyway. Take it one adjustment at a time, go slow, and you should be back in business. And the worst that can happen is that you don’t get your signal back and you have to call in a professional anyway.

    If you get it lined up, scratch some marks into the metal on the dish mount and on the pipe so you can get it back in the ballpark next time. Might not be a bad idea to go up and do that after the installer leaves anyway so you have a rough idea where to start the next time yourself.

  30. vastrightwing says:

    @crazypants: Yea, me too. But getting a phone line costs $12/mo + $10/mo taxes for a total of $22/mo. You can’t win.

  31. Beerad says:

    Don’t ever, ever, ever get DirecTV. That’s all.

  32. Fairplay says:

    Thanks for this tip! I recently cancelled the Protection Plan (also never requested it be added to my account) so I checked current charges and there was the $10! I emailed them requesting they remove the $10 fee and credit my account at $5.99/month since installation. We’ll see what happens …

  33. strife1012 says:

    Same problem here, noticed online that I was added for the 5.99 charge, removed it the 1st month, I wonder if they will put it back on again.

  34. CPC24 says:

    @Beerad:I’ve had DirecTV for years and never had a problem, especially this.

  35. veverkap says:

    @scoosdad: You’re right except I don’t own a ladder tall enough to reach the top of my roof ~40 feet in the air. Buying that ladder would run ~100 bucks.

    Plus, with a small child and a busy job, my free time is worth more than 5 bucks a month to me.

  36. hilaryr says:

    After reading this yesterday, I checked my DirecTV bill and noticed I was signed up for this as well. Here’s some background:

    On 2/11, I placed an order to upgrade my three-year-old DirecTV Tivo receiver.

    On 2/23, the receiver was installed.

    On 2/27, I had problems with one of the features so I called customer service. (It’s still not working, but that’s a different story.)

    On 2/28, after reading this post, I looked at my bill and noticed I had unknowingly been signed up for the Protection Plan. The first month was free, but I was also billed a prorated amount of $.40 for 3/23-3/24. I called customer service and inquired about how I got signed up for the Protection Plan. The customer service representative looked at my account and put me on hold. He came back and suggested that I was possibly signed up for it when I called in with the problem on 2/27, but then looked at the date and said I was signed up on the day my new receiver was installed. He confirmed that I was signed up for it without my approval. And he had absolutely no explanation for the prorated $.40 for the 24 hour period in March.

    He then put me on hold again and came back and said he was crediting my account $5 a month for the next three months because I was so understanding and patient with him on the phone.

    I smell scam.

  37. Beerad says:

    @CPC24: Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while. I’ve had them for 10 months, and now have a side hobby of telling everyone how much they suck and I can’t wait to move to a cable-wired building so they’re out of my life forever. CSR lies, missed/botched installations/smug supervisors failing to return calls — you name it, they’ve done it to me. I would have a celebratory BBQ over the burning satellite dish when I move if I wasn’t sure it would release some nice toxic fumes into my lungs. Even in death DTV would find a way to screw me. Yes, they got my vote for Worst Company in America.

  38. GrandizerGo says:

    Hmmm, I am a Comcast subscriber, Yes they are the Devil…
    I was thinking of switching to Direct TV, but they are the Devil as well…
    FIOS everyone here says it is great when it works, but a pain to get billing correct, hence they are the devil…

    My question to you guys, who is the LEAST WORST Devil to belong with?

    Seriously.

  39. mrrbob says:

    @GrandizerGo: I have had dish network for almost 2 yrs and nothing fishy has gone down yet, knock on wood I guess but I am happy with them. The DVR so rocks, I love it.

  40. Fairplay says:

    To follow up on my earlier post, I was able to get a 2-month credit of the Protection Plan charge and removal of the cancellation fee from my bill. I did it all by email (I can’t control my temper on the phone in these situations) and, although the resolution may have been simply from persistence, my last message suggested that the unwanted Protection Plan amounted to “unsolicited goods” (see your state’s AG website) and that I didn’t have to pay for them.

  41. tacostand says:

    Yes, your state attorney general can help. Also, when dealing with DTV or ATT, I always tape record the conversations.

  42. a1aparrot says:

    There are so many instances of DirecTV deception it defies belief. I went through a harrowing experience trying to remove the service agreement that was put on my account when a defective receiver was replaced. This was resolved only when I said I’m cancelling anyway. The person assigned to me to keep my business did remove the service agreement AND gave me the college football package for free.

    Now about the protection plan. Over the past year this plan HAS saved my untold dollars. With faulty receivers, and out of line dish, I don’t want to know what the cost would have been. I did voluntarily sign up, so there was no deception there, BUT there is still no excuse for the on going deceptive trade practices.