DirecTV Raises Rates, Threatens To Bill You For Past Discounts If You Cancel

Reader Lane wants to know if other readers out there have experienced the following scenario from DirecTV. You think you are paying too much so you call to negotiate. They offer you a discount, then raise your rates. When you call to cancel, they threaten to bill you for the “discounts” you were getting.

Lane says:

My first call was to my DirecTV support representative where I immediately attempted to negotiate a different rate. This is apparantly a mistake and was met with utter failure. It should be noted that the first tier of customer support staff — seemingly at no fault of their own — are completely and totally powerless to help customers when it comes to these matters. This is not a guess, this was communicated to me each time I have dealt with them. Being an avid reader of the Consumerist however I was savvy to the fact that retention agents have a lot more power to assist in these matters.

I called back but this time asked to cancel my DirecTV. I spoke to their representative specialist named Stacey. Naturally some discussion ensued over the cause of the termination and in the end we had negotiated, or so I had thought, new rates effectively putting my invoice at $48 a month. They actually implement this rate change as a monthly discount that is offset to your bill; the perception that you have a different package rate is the core of the scam. The line item charge for the package then started showing at $53.99, much higher than what I thought I had negotiated but I let it pass the first time.

It is now March and my new DirecTV bill shows that my rate has once again crept back up again. My bill now shows the “TOTAL CHOICE” charge at $57.49 but the discount is still applied but after the package is invoiced. In my opinion this is quite different from negotiating a fixed rate, they can then use the discount to play games and adjust the total by offsetting it with other line items on the bill.

Recalling my prior success dealing with the retention group I attempted the cancel maneuver route once again. This time however the game is played quite differently. To quote a metaphor, “instead of the carrot you are given the stick”: I am told that after my discount was applied a system-wide rate increase went into effect bringing ALL rates back up again. Whether this is actually true or not I have no idea since DirecTV made no mailings or statements that there was an official rate increase. Additionally, if I cancel this time I will be charged for the full amount of the discount that they have been applying to my bill (an additional $100 I am told). This aspect of the prior negotiation was never originally agreed upon when I spoke to Stacey.

In summary, this is the sequence of events that unfolded:

* They raised my rate (in my case several times).

* My cancellation attempt yielded a line item credit labeled a “discount”.

* Rates are raised again, but as an additional line item charges offset against the alleged discount.

* A cancellation is met with a threat to be back billed for the prior discount.

It would be interesting to know from the consumerist readership whether a system-wide rate increase was experienced for others for the month of February 2010? Also, it would be interesting to know if anyone has ever been threatened to be back-billed for a retention discount?

At this point I am thinking it would be better to just cancel and take the discount to small claims court. Am I being petty or should I just take my lumps?

Anybody out there know how to navigate the perilous waters of lowering your DirecTV bill?

What should Lane do?