DirecTV Debits A $446.60 Cancellation Fee — For Service You Canceled Within 24 Hours

Meet Brandon. He canceled DirecTV after less than 24 hours (the agreed upon time limit to avoid a fee, apparently), only to see that DirecTV debited $446.60 from his checking account.

From CBS13:

Right away, he got on the phone with DirecTV.

“They told me there was nothing they could do and I had to write a letter and mail it off to the billing disputes,” says Brandon.

Brandon wrote two letters to DirecTV and also disputed the charges with his bank. The bank credited him back the charges, but…

“Unfortunately DirecTV still had my account number and once they saw the money go back to me, they then a week later, took back the money again,” says Brandon.

He again disputed the charges with his bank and they ruled in his favor. This time, Brandon changed his account number so DirecTV couldn’t withdraw the money again.

The company then sent him to collections.

“Very outraged, very furious with the way they are trying to make me go every route possible in order to get my money back when it’s their fault,” says Brandon.

We contacted DirecTV. They told us Brandon called them again on April 9th to extend his service until the 10th, and that the cancellation fee is valid. We asked them if that made sense. Why would Brandon call to extend his service only to cancel again the next day?

Ultimately, it took the local news team’s intervention to get DirecTV to fix their mistake. Boo.

Call Kurtis: Tug Of War Over Cancelled Service [cbs13] (Thanks, R.B.!)
(Photo: scentzilla )

Comments

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  1. DeleteThisAccount says:

    wow collections over a termination fee? Local media to get them to stop messing with this guy? I love how these companies and their soulless employees think they can ruin people’s lives ‘just because’.

    Someone at direct tv needs their legs broken as they’re leaving work some evening.

    • blackmage439 says:

      @AngrySicilian: Seriously.

      Still, this is another lesson why you should NEVER give a company direct access to your bank account. Checks are different, because they only authorize the company to debit that exact amount only that one time. Anything else is illegal and can be classified as theft, as far as I understand it.

      Credit cards and checks offer the best protection against these kinds of situations.

      • ViperBorg says:

        @blackmage439: Or even those unpopular pre-paid Visa/Mastercard cards. I have one per service. And I only put enough in there to take care of the bill. If they try anything funny, they’re out of luck.

      • SabreDC says:

        @blackmage439: Not always. Some companies state in fine print on your bill that payment by check is permission to use your checking account for automatic recurring transfers. I received a utility bill like that recently with a box that I had to check to opt-out. I’m at work at the moment so I can’t recall which company and I don’t want to blame the wrong one so I won’t attempt to post the name of the company.

        EFT without a paper check seems to be one of the safest methods if you can’t use a credit card because that truly authorizes a single transfer.

    • Ajh says:

      @AngrySicilian: Unfortunately enough people just pay that they get a good profit off of it. Dishonest yes. Illegal..probably. but very few actually call them out on it.

  2. Justinh6 says:

    This nonsense is the main reason I go with cable. Time warner is not the best company out there, but they don’t make you sign an absurd contract.

    My girlfriend’s grandfather was put into a nursing home, and direcTV charged a 150 dollar cancellation fee when he shut the service off.

    No thanks, when I decide that I don’t want TV for a few months, I’ll call and say cancel it.

    • kc2idf says:

      @Justinh6: Dish Network has no-contract options. They are also slightly cheaper than DirecTV and much cheaper than Time-Warner.

      To sum up, satellite isn’t evil; DirecTV is.

      Also, while we are on the topic of evil, ACH is evil. If you don’t know that acronym, it is Automated Clearing House — the mechanism Brandon used to pay DirecTV. If someone wants your bank routing number and account number as the means to pay them, tell them to get stuffed. Use a credit card, instead.

    • SabreDC says:

      @Justinh6: I’m sorry for being a jerk, but why should DirecTV waive the fee for your g/f’s grandfather? It’s not their fault he is cancelling his service. Yes, it sucks that he had to be put in a nursing home, but why should DirecTV be punished for it?

  3. vastrightwing says:

    Consider using free off the air programming. 1) It’s free, there is no auto debit or account information given to anyone. 2) The digital picture is not compressed so it’s better quality than any of the paid content providers. 3) There are no rude CSRs to deal with. It’s the perfect value.

  4. Jabberkaty says:

    Yeeesh! I’m glad books don’t come with cancellation fees. Course, that doesn’t help me watch my crime dramas.

  5. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    As I posted a day or so ago about Comcast…

    People WAKE UP! Never give a company access to your bank accounts. They will abuse that access… guaranteed… it is one of those things guaranteed like death and taxes.

    Of course the company offers you the convenience of paying directly from your bank account, but convenient for who? Them.

    Would you go into a 7-11 (7:30-11:30 in NFLD) and hand your wallet to the kid behind the counter to take money out to pay your bill? Would you go into a Chinese food joint and when the fortune cookies come, drop your wallet on the tray and trust that they will act in your best interest? Of course not. So why would you expect a dysfunctional corporation to behave not just in your best interest, but honestly. These corporations are not that different from the investment houses and banks asking for your $700 billion today, Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, etc of a few years ago or the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 90′s, or… and the list goes on back to the beginning of corporations and greed.

    With all the bitching that occurs on the Consumerist about the abusive billing practices of Corporations this message should be tattooed on the inside of all our eyelids. But I guess by now only the choir is still reading so I will get off the pulpit. Thanks for your time in reading this, say 20 hail Mary’s while checking your credit report.

    • scoosdad says:

      @GreatWhiteNorth: Two nights ago I was trying to see what Dish Network would cost me as opposed to cable, using their online “Dish Builder” app.

      I got to the premium movie choices, and it told me that if I agreed to sign up for their Auto-Pay service (basically, their hand in my bank account), that I could get one of my movie channel choices for only a penny for the next year. I declined for the reasons you give above. I then attempted to add in that premium channel again, willing to pay full boat for it. Guess what? It would not let me do that. The ONLY way I could get that channel in my package (it was Cinemax) aside from maybe talking to them on the phone about it, was to agree to Auto Pay. Fail.

      • scoosdad says:

        @scoosdad: Forgot the moral of the story– these “auto pay” options must be a big money maker for these guys if they’re willing to give away something that normally costs the consumer about $120 a year just to coerce you into signing up. They’re absolutely counting on the fact that they can take money out of your accounts for whatever reason, and there’s very little you can do about it when it goes awry. That’s if you even notice that it’s been done to you.

        • Ajh says:

          Ok..question for all of you saying don’t give a company access to your account. Does paying them through your BANK’s service count? I’ve been using that. They can’t pull this crap if you do that right? That way you save paper from writing out the checks, the money gets sent out when you want it and they don’t have access.

          • trujunglist says:

            @Ajh:

            I’m pretty sure those bill payment methods directly from the bank are more like writing a check or doing a 1-time credit/debit swipe; all the 3rd party gets is the payment. The auto-pay things that 3rd party companies set up require you to give them all your information so they can automatically deduct it, similar to what’s described above; giving your wallet to someone and trusting them to make the transaction.

          • scoosdad says:

            @Ajh: Right. The danger is in giving them a blanket authorization to withdraw money without any action from you every month. Since cable bills and probably satellite too can differ by a few pennies a month due to taxes, number of days in the month, pay per view, etc. you’re not giving them permission for a specific amount, but rather “whatever they think is right”. That’s the danger. If they take too much by accident, the ball is in your court to coerce them to give it back. And most of them would rather just put it on your account as a credit towards future services, rather than a refund back to the bank. You lose the use of that money, and they get it as a free loan for the duration of the credit.

            Asking your bank to send them a check or electronic payment every month is very different. YOU control when that happens, and how much, and they can’t come back later when you’re not looking and take a little (or a lot) more. I refuse to accept a ‘bribe’ of free movies to give Dish a way to reach into my bank account. For me, that basically killed Dish’s chance to get me as a $100-plus a month customer until they fix that. I’m sure DirecTV has similar incentives.

        • antisane says:

          @scoosdad: Electronic Funds transfer (EFT) costs the company nothing, but they actually lose money on credit card payments (usually 5% or more) for “processing fees”. That is why most companies now want the “direct approach” to your “wallet”.

          Also, it is easy to change your CC number, but much harder (and inconvenient) to change your bank account number.

  6. temporaryerror says:

    Don’t forget FTA satellite… a few hundred dollars investment can go a long way. Do the research and you’ll see what I mean.

    • xipander says:

      @temporaryerror: exactly. you can pick up a coolsat for about $200 and get a B.U.D. for a few hundred and point it at the nimiq 2 sat and you can get 1600 or so channels in multiple languages. : )

  7. Eigtball says:

    It appears that companies are going down the tube. This sucks for the good guys that try hard, because the norm seems to be loser companies like these.

  8. JustThatGuy3 says:

    The reason satellite charges ETFs is that the cost of adding a customer is so high. The dish+installation+set top boxes+commission can easily be $700, and, even if they get the boxes back, and you cancel soon enough so that they can claw the commission back, they’re still looking at $250-300 out the door that they’re never going to get back.

    • Difdi says:

      @JustThatGuy3: Yes, that makes some sense; Satellite dishes, converter boxes, etc, are all expensive stuff. But the OP canceled in under 24 hours, following the rules DirecTV themselves set for how to cancel without a fee. If a company doesn’t want customers to be able to do that, or lacks the capability to do that, they should not advertise a means of doing so. Once they do promise such a thing, they should keep their word. If a company cannot be trusted to keep to the terms of the contracts they themselves wrote, why should we?

  9. Kenneth says:

    It seems to me that when a company continues to charge your bank and it get’s returned and charged again- that would be considered FRAUD; and that company should have their ability to bill credit cards suspended.

  10. mrstephengross says:

    This reminds me of one of my absolutely firm rules in dealing with companies: NEVER authorize them to directly debit you for ANYTHING. I always make sure that I am the one who manually initiates all payments; this ensures that no billing dispute ever arises in which money has already been taken from me.

    Plus, most banks have free online bill pay, so it’s really easy to set up payments that initiate with you, the consumer.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @mrstephengross: Online bill pay means you put in your bank account information and store it, but the company doesn’t have the right to take the funds, right? I had online bill pay established with all of my bills because I hate getting a paper bill, but I was also under the impression that it did not mean auto bill-pay.

      • nybiker says:

        @IHaveAFreezeRay: Assuming your bank offers online bill payment (which means you can access your account online as well), you set up all your vendors – cable, satellite, credit cards, electric, your parents [yeah them too if you have to send them money on occasion]. Next, you can do either a one-time payment or you can set up a recurring payment to the vendor. I set up my recurring payments even if I have to change the amount every month because this way I still see the payment in my future payments list. Once I get a new bill (via email notification of course), I log back in to my bank account and modify the payment for that vendor.

        Some banks allow you to set the day the payment is made (I use Citibank and that’s how they do it). Bank of America however, uses a when’s-it-due method. You tell them October 30th and they will send out the check early enough to get to your vendor by then (and it will have October 30 as the check date). Of course, that means you have to have the money in the account on some earlier date. I like the fact that I tell Citibank to send the payment (check or ETF) on Oct 20 and it gets a check date of Oct 20 and it gets there when it gets there. It’s up to me to know how long it is going to take and ETFs clear in like 2 days, even though Citibank takes the money from you on Oct 20 (to continue with my example).

        The end result is that no vendor can take any money from my checking account.

        HTH.

        • Anonymous says:

          @nybiker:
          No, that’s not how Bank of America works. The date you specify in Bill Pay is the date the merchant is guaranteed to receive it AND the day it comes out of your account. If the payee needs to be sent a check, Bank of America sends them a corporate bank check NOT a check attached to your bank account and they pull the funds from your account the day you list it to be paid. BofA has the best bill pay of any national bank, I know I have had accounts at all of them and have always came back to BofA because of the bill pay.

  11. bmwloco says:

    I used DirecTV for over a decade. $29 seemed a good deal, and I liked the fact I could turn it off for months while I worked overseas.

    Fee creep is the reason I told ‘em to shut it down. I own the box and the dish, so they didn’t have me in any way, shape or form.

    After paying $29 for years, it was finally $72 a year (and mind you, much of absolutely NOTHING on) that made me tell ‘em to turn it off. $800 a year for absolute drivel and tripe.

    Now I have Dish; it’s not much better, but it’s $24 a month. I get locals, PBS and The Weather Channel. That’s plenty.

    The rest I get via Netflix or watch for zip, nada, nothing via iTunes.

  12. wickedpixel says:

    Most states have some variation of a “buyer’s remorse” law where you have the legal right to cancel a contract within 3 days without penalty (with some exceptions, like car purchases, for example). If his state has such a law he may have been able to use that in his favor. As we all know, law trumps company policy.

  13. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    this sort of thing is what makes it worth it to me to decline the automatic draft billing that time warner tried to coerce me into. they handle the billing arrangements/actual cables for my earthlink cable internet.

    when i set it up last year the CSR advised me that i would save $2 a month to just give them my account number to set it up and i’d never get a bill and i wouldn’t have to worry about remembering payments and that they could just go ahead and take the first payment out before i got my service hooked up.

    took a while to get him to admit that they didn’t have any problems hooking up my service without getting any money up front and would be willing to send me a bill every month [they can't e-bill for some reason, they said it has to be paper if i don't do automatic draft]

    for $2 a month i didn’t have a concern that they would get my money and screw around with delaying my service hook up – no hook up = no money. the guy actually showed up late, but on the correct day…..

    and for $2 a month i am paying for the peace of mind i didn’t have when bellsouth took an electronic draft of $60 more than a year after i cut off my landline and then tried to prove they didn’t do it because i didn’t have an account anymore.

    by the way – my credit union advised that i have them [bellsouth] send me a check, which i did, because then they couldn’t ‘reverse the transaction’ and THEN ‘reverse the reversed transaction’ like directv did to the OP.

    • trujunglist says:

      @catastrophegirl:

      Time Warner has “e-billing” (in that, you get a statement sent to your e-mail asking you to pay), along with online payments for no fee. I think they lied to you, because I pay them that way every month for my cable internet service (I don’t have TV).

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        @trujunglist: i had asked about that at the time because that’s how i handle my power bill and car insurance, but the CSR said they have limited billing options for the earthlink accounts. my service is earthlink, my billing is time warner for north carolina because they run the actual cables.

        so they offer a paper bill or an automatic draft for those accounts, and that’s it. without the automatic draft i don’t even have an option to view my account online.
        worth it though – when i was looking for service providers i asked everyone in the area what they thought of their internet service. everyone who had earthlink around here said: “um, i don’t think about it. it’s just.. THERE. all the time. i can’t remember having a problem….”
        which is what i look for in a service. now, my parents used to have earthlink in florida and it was a nightmare. it all depends.

  14. Dukie says:

    DirecTV doesn’t care about the buyers remorse laws in ANY state. I didn’t like the service after 36 hours and was told that their policy stated 24 hours. They could NOT provide me with ANY documentation showing the 24 hour rule. They only stated it was an internal rule, and I could cancel, but I would be charged the ETF and would have to dispute it via a letter to their legal department. After a long back and forth with AT&T recently, I didn’t want to bother with another runaround as I have a job, and a family I would rather spend my off time with. Once this contract is up, DirecTV can kiss my butt!

  15. NotATool says:

    If you’re going to auto-debit, use a credit card. If the company tries to pull shenanigans such as this, you’re not out any real money and you’ve got the credit card company going to bat for you.

  16. shufflemoomin says:

    Maybe I misunderstand the article, but are you actually saying you called these muppets and they discussed the guys account with you? I don’t think they have any right to discuss anything with you if you’re not the account holder. Interesting, if true…

  17. Psychosocial says:

    DirectTV has totally gone downhill. When we first got DirectTV in 2000 the customer service was top notch. 18 months ago we upgraded to HD and have had nothing but problems since. The biggest being customer service promising something and then not following through. They have become like Sprint in taking “notes” when you call too. Make sure you get the CSR’s number or it’ll be like your last call never existed. When our contract expires next spring I will be switching to Dish or look at my cable options.

  18. Psychosocial says:

    I would also like to add, NEVER EVER give DirectTV your debit card number to pay a bill. NO AUTOPAY. You will end up with the same problem the OP is having right now. Always pay DirectTV with a credit card so you can dispute a charge with them and not even deal with DirectTV. Their dispute system is a massive joke.

  19. Jimbo says:

    Not too smart linking recurring bills to a checking account. When there are problems or disputes there is a big difference from haveing the cash gone from you account and having to fight to get it back vs just having a credit card bill.

  20. jackdangers says:

    You know what would also ultimately fix the mistake? Contacting your bank and either a) initiating a chargeback if it was a credit charge, or b) revoking an ACH debit via the same method.

    I feel blessed to have a credit union that is so pro-customer when it comes to situations like this. I have had to revoke ACH authorizations in a situation such as this two times over the years and it has worked perfectly.

    These companies, even if they are in the RIGHT, have no right to treat your bank account like a candy jar unless you specifically tell them they can. Once you tell them that they may not automatically debit you, they HAVE to resort to other means, like sending a letter, collections agencies, etc.

  21. WynneDryope says:

    I was a customer for over 3 years. My STB went faulty so I bought a new one which was faulty out of the box. I had it shut off and returned it to DTV.
    I had my old one repaired (Needed a HDD) and had it reactivated. (All of this is within 24 hours)
    I then canceled service with them 3 months later because they would not refund the money for the faulty STB and they helped them selves to nearly $400 out of my bank. I was told 3 times this was a mistake and it would be refunded. After 2 weeks they decided not to refund them money they stole.
    I did not have auto payment they just used the last card I payed with online.
    I have disputed it with the bank and called DTV.
    DTV told me they would only give me the money back if I signed up with them again for 2 years using my own old equipment.
    They have also refused to send me a replacement for the faulty one I sent back to them if i sign up again.

    Directv can rot in hell

  22. xspook says:

    If you allow a company to pull funds from your bank account you cannot stop them for any reason, even if you close your account with the company. You would have to move your money to a different bank to keep them out of it.

  23. othium says:

    One reason I do not have these type of disputes is that I use VOIP phone service and record all my business calls. (I live in a “One Party Notification” state) This way, if any problems arise, I have a file I can attach to an email proving that I did cancel/change my service. It has a date/time stamp as well.

    No problems so far and I have used it to prove my side of an argument twice in the last year.

  24. aprep69 says:

    I recently was charged $572.24 to Bank account, When i called Directv and asked them why, They said i had a customer agreement with them to pay an early termination fee, I asked them if i could receive a copy where i agreed to these terms, All they could say was this is only a piece of paper we send in the mail you read and agree?? So i asked them how can they “allegilly” send a piece of paper in the mail and then charge my account? They could do these multiple time’s,What can you do? They had no comment and could not remove my Credit Card information from the account. So basicly it’s my word against there’s that i never recieved a Customer agreement nor was i informed of this upon purchasing this service with an early termination fee which I would have never agreed upon. This is just a way of a big company getting over on the little people. This is no different then if someone had purchased an item from me using a Credit card then i charge there account $500 dollars & when they ask why? Tell them ‘I’m sorry the purchase you made was also an agreement that i could take more money from you but i did not make you aware of this at the time of the purchase, I did send a peice of paper in the mail that you agreed apon this.’ I’m currently fighting this with my Bank.

  25. huenem says:

    Seriously Folks, DirecTV has their head where the sun don’t shine! They think they can make up rules as they go along. They bind you to a contract that they ultimately don’t honor and then try to charge you a fee for breaking the contract early. Who do they think they are? It happened to me. Luckily, I ordered service with my bank card and canceled it before they could assess the charge. If you ignore their bills without taking action, they will send you to collections. So, fight back and fast! You can beat them. There is a good suggestion on how to get your money back on ehow. Just google DirecTv Early Cancellation Fee. You’ll find the ehow article on like the second page. DON”T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH MURDER! You just have to beat them at their own game!!!! I hear the Rocky Theme Song in my head. Rocky’s comin’ back baby and at the end of the movie, guess what??? (Chicken Butt) He wins!