Here is a story that first came to our attention a few months ago, but that we haven’t posted because it just keeps getting worse. Reader Chuck emailed us in January to let us know that his Executive Email Carpet Bomb failed to penetrate the mustachioed walls of DirecTV’s headquarters. Which is surprising, considering DirecTV let Chuck’s dog escape, signed him up for a service agreement without telling him, refused to provide proof of the agreement to Chuck or his credit card company, and billed Chuck for the amount he recovered after a chargeback. Full story, and an opportunity to leave mustache jokes in the comments, inside.
In January, Chuck wrote the office of DirecTV CEO Chase Carey.
I’m writing to you today out of sheer frustration after over a year of disappointments with DirecTV. The result is a service agreement that I never consented to, and a disconnect fee that I am hoping that you can see your way clear to waive for me.
Until 12/13/07, we had been very satisfied DirecTV customers since 11/03. In October ’06, we moved from Virginia to Texas, and brought our DirecTV service with us. Long story short: the install in Texas was botched, the tech tried to steal the TiVo that we owned, charged us off the books for extra work, and left the gate to our back yard open. The mistake with the gate resulted in my wife (4 weeks post partum) walking around our neighborhood sobbing and trying to find our beagle until I could get home to help her. She wanted to cancel right then, but I persuaded her to remain a customer. When I called to complain about the install, the CSR told me that she would make everything right by issuing us a new DVR and HD receiver. What she didn’t tell me was that she obligated me to a service commitment without my consent.
Jump ahead to 11/07. We relocated to Georgia for my wife’s employment. We decided to move the DirecTV service with us. When speaking with the CSR about moving, she informed me that the move would cost $99 or commit me to a service agreement. When I informed her that I preferred not to pay a fee and have no commitment, she informed me that I was already under commitment, and that moving would simply extend it by 2 months. That just infuriated me all over again, and I told her that I would need to consider my options and asked her to please put my account on hold.
When we arrived in Georgia, I decided to cancel DirecTV service on 12/13/07 because I felt that after 4 years of being an excellent customer (auto pay every month) that I didn’t want to patronize a business that felt that they needed to lock me into a service agreement. I’ve spoken with 5 different CSRs to try to have the fee waived, as I never committed to it, but I don’t believe that they are empowered to waive the fee. After discussing the issue with one CSR on 12/13, he threatened that DirecTV would “post the amount to my credit report if I didn’t pay the disconnect fee”. If I truly believed that I made commitment, I would pay it. However, I don’t believe that I ever verbally agreed and know I didn’t agree in writing. If there is any way that you can help me by waiving the fee, I would greatly appreciate it.
The name on the account is [redacted], and the service telephone number is [redacted].
Oh, and however this turns out, I’d like to express my admiration of your mustache. There are few men who could wear it as well as you do.
Chuck received a call the next day; he retold his story and was told that the commitment is still valid. When Chuck asked, the CSR could provide no proof of the agreement, other than stating that it was DirecTV’s policy to inform customers, verbally and in writing, of the commitment. “So the rep from the president’s office stated that because the policy exists, therefore I must have been notified,” says Chuck. Chuck followed up his phone call with another email to the CEO’s office, requesting a paper copy of the commitment. When nothing came, Chuck filed a dispute with American Express. DirecTV couldn’t provide American Express with any proof of the disputed commitment, so Chuck won the dispute.
A few days later, Chuck received a bill from DirecTV for the amount American Express had recovered.
I directed Chuck to several Consumerist articles on threatening to report the company for mail fraud, suing in small claims court, and winning a default judgment by serving a company kiosk. Chuck should send DirecTV a letter stating that he will not pay this bill unless they can provide written proof that he extended the agreement, and that if they don’t like it they can take him to court. Any other suggestions?