Miami Sues DirecTV, Says Ads Mislead Consumers

Miami-Dade County’s consumer cops are suing DirecTV, after receiving over 300 complaints from customers over the company’s pricing. According to the county’s Consumer Services Department, DirecTV’s ads led customers to believe they’d get a satellite package for $34.99 a month, but actual charges went as high as $65.99.

The Miami Herald reports that DirecTV is being charged under Miami-Dade’s uniform trade practices law.

The agency says DIRECTV buried additional fees in small print in service agreements with customers. For example, it cited a $5 charge for a second receiver; a $19.95 fee for complex installation, handling and delivery; $6 per month for DVR service; and $10 a month for HD access. But the company’s offers of free installation in up to four rooms and free HD DVR receiver upgrades didn’t include information about these fees.

In addition, the suit says customers who thought they were signing a one-year contract based on ads that offered to lock in a price for a full year were actually signing two-year contracts.

The agency is also going after DirecTV for the kind of fine-print disclaimers that somehow seem to make their way into too many contracts, including “eligibility for local channels based on service address. Programs not delivered in HD in all markets,” and “Blackout restrictions and other conditions apply.”

Miami-Dade sues DIRECTV – Business [MiamiHerald.com]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. wjstone says:

    its about time

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    *squint*

    What’s that say?

  3. Rumblepuff says:

    I had DirecTV for all of 7 days. It was never installed correctly, and the techs would call and say they would come the next day and never showed up. DirecTV said they couldn’t control what the techs did cause they don’t work for direcTV. They also charged me for Sunday ticket and would not refund it, even though I didn’t watch any football (the season hadn’t started yet) after I cancelled because I couldn’t even watch any TV due to install.

  4. The_Fuzz_53 says:

    Please post my story I sent in about Directv receivers dropping audio constantly and not being able to hear what you’re watching for 4-10 seconds every time it happens.

    Link on dbstalk.com about: http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=167900&page=54

    • ddesigns says:

      Fuzz I had the same issue, finally got it resolved by calling every time it happened. Pretty much demand a new box. My tech was really nice, gave me his home phone number and told me to call if there were any other issues.

      Ask for the new HR24/500, it’s faster by 100% and zero sound/video issues.

  5. Alvis says:

    How is DVR a “service” that requires a monthly fee instead of a hardware function, paid for when the IRD was purchased?

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      A DVR receiver is one thing. The monthly service is another. It’s sort of like a cable box. You can buy a cable box, but that doesn’t mean you get free cable.

      • Alvis says:

        That doesn’t make any sense. You get the came channels, the same channel guide info, with or without the DVR.

        • Beeker26 says:

          Just cause it doesn’t cost them anything doesn’t mean they can’t charge you for it. Text messaging costs wireless carriers absolutely nothing. Yet they earn billions from it.

          • wrjohnston91283 says:

            It does cost them someone. They had to pay for the network infrastructure to handle a large amount of data at a single time. There is a difference between ALMOST nothing and nothing.

    • mac-phisto says:

      b/c you’re willing to pay for it. you don’t have to – get a media server & record off-box.

  6. redskull says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why I had to pay $100 for my “free” cable installation 6 years ago.

  7. arkitect75 (now w/ 50% more nougat) says:

    I’m in Miami and had Direct TV for about two years. The pricing was a little vague when I was originally researching it, but I made the sales guy sit down and lay out all the charges. I do prefer it over Comcast for the pricing and selection.
    My only negatives are that I was getting “snow” on all of my digital HD channels. The tech that came out swore that my Sony wasn’t an HD TV and that was the reason. It took three service calls before a support manager came to my house w/ a new HD DVR and everything worked fine (I hated that I lost my DVR’ed shows).
    The other thing I don’t like is in their new advertising they mention “FREE HD FOR LIFE!” You have to search the ad to find the fine print that states you have to have the $10/month HD Access to receive it… so it’s not REALLY free.

  8. Clyde Barrow says:

    Is anyone here familiar with DishTV? Are they more honest? lol

    • DaveBoy says:

      Dish is just as bad and I can not wait for my contract to be up……

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Well I am sorry to hear that. I have been doing some research into various companies and Dish TV has a nice special and I could also get some European programs as an add-on. Thanks for the word.

    • Rumblepuff says:

      I switched to them after DirecTV, I haven’t had any problems. But then again, its all about the local techs.

  9. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    I’ve been with Directv for 5+ years and they’ve done some shady things to us. They would send us specials in the mail, email, on our account page, saying because we’ve been such good customers that they are going to give us both cinemax and Starz for $10 a month (for 3 months) I tried to activate the offer, figured I could find some movies to DVR instead of renting every week…

    Yeah, right. I got this message “Your current package doesn’t support this offer. If you’d like to redeem your offer, you must first UPGRADE YOUR PACKAGE from the (now) expired $58.99 to the $65.99 standard total choice plus.”

    When I started with Directv years ago, my bill was $40 a month. I added an extra receiver ($5 a month) and an HD-DVR upgrade ($6 dvr/$10 HD a month) So, I’ve added $21 in different services. My bill runs $95 a MONTH, for the same channel package I had 5 years ago.

    (Closing browser window and calling them to bitch…)

    • tbax929 says:

      If it makes you feel any better, I pay about $120 a month for Comcast with no pay channels. I do have one HD DVR and one non-DVR receiver.

      • wcnghj says:

        Call and complain, threaten to switch to DISH or Direct. 90% chance they’ll give you a discount.

    • JMILLER says:

      So you added double the number of tv’s you originally had. You added a DVR, which you didnt have 5 years ago. You added HD, which was not available 5 years ago, but somehow you consider it “shady” that you are now paying $95? Entitled much?
      I won’t even get into the fact that there is nothing forcing you to stay with DIrectV. If they charge too much you are free to go to a competitor or dump pay TV completely.
      Nothing in this post is anti-consumer.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        Except you.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        > You added a DVR, which you didnt have 5 years ago. You added HD,
        > which was not available 5 years ago, but somehow you consider it
        > “shady” that you are now paying $95? Entitled much?

        Yes. VERY. I am a free citizen.

        1) HD is simply the natural evolution of current TV tfech. It’s federally mandated infact.
        2) A DVR should not require ongoing extra fees. It uses the same signals and data that an of the other cable devices do. We PAY FOR THOSE BOXES.
        3) Extra TVs should not require an extra monthly fee either. We PAY FOR THOSE BOXES too.

        DirecTV gets away with this crap because there are limited options in the marketplace and they are ultimately competing against your local MONOPOLY.

        In the end, you just have to measure the crap against the crap the other guy would subject you too.

        So Miami cops want to go after this bait-and-switch nickel and dime nonsense? More power to them.

  10. kingsnakeaw says:

    Who didn’t know this? Just read the ads, fine print or not.

  11. blinky says:

    I’ve periodically look into directv pricing (and then laugh). Why wouldn’t somebody read the fine print, or go through the directv web site to find out how much they’ll be paying? Seems to all be there; HD fees (gone, I guess); DVR fees; additional receiver fees; HD DVR rental fees; return requirements; two year contract. All there.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Yes, it is there. I thought about getting service through them. The price was $29.99 a month. When I got on line, figured out how much it would cost for the box, DVR, HD per month, it ended up being $60, so I didn’t do it. It was also clear that the contract was for 2 years.

      I don’t understand where the false advertising is. Saying you get free installation, upgrade, etc… Doesn’t mean you don’t have to rent the receiver, pay HD fees, pay DVR fees. This is just silly.

      • mac-phisto says:

        not everyone has the ability to “hop online”.

        you have to admit, the commercials are a little deceptive. “packages starting at $29.99, free installation on up to 4 tvs, free hd-dvr w/ signup” is what they say, then they flash a screen full of 6-pt type that you can’t even read on an HDTV for a half-second.

        sure, everything they say is true, but only to a point. it’s $29.99 for only one tv – not four (which adds another $15/mo.), but they don’t say that. the hd-dvr is free, but they don’t tell you it’s an extra $17/mo. for the service.

        the service they’re showing in pictures is $62+/mo., but they’re screaming $29.99 at you. that’s not right.

  12. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    So, people chose not to read the fine print (which admittedly was there) and now they are angry that they are being held to an agreement that they signed?

  13. JMILLER says:

    “eligibility for local channels based on service address. Programs not delivered in HD in all markets,” and “Blackout restrictions and other conditions apply.”

    How is this bad fine print? The local service eligibility is something the local tv stations insisted on with the FCC. I am sure DirectV would love to allow New York stations to be shown in Miami. DirectV does not control this.
    Not all programs are delivered in HD. If a program is not delivered in HD to DirectV, how can you expect them to deliver it to you that way.
    Blackout restrictions are contractual obligations. MLB, the NFL, NHL etc all have these built into their contracts.

    I also want to know why it would be “deceptive” to charge more for a second receiver. If you go buy a car and it says lease for $200 per month, do you have the right to ask for a second one because your wife needs one too for no extra charge?
    DVR is an ADDED service. I guess in that same car example if you say you want the leather seats and power moon roof, you should pay that same $200? Same thing with HD
    As for the complex installation, I would say, why wouldn’t you pay more for a service tha tis extra. When you get oil changed they may advertise a $19.99 special, but that will not and should not apply to a car that requires 10 qts of oil, or requires the removal of parts that will take an hour versus the typical 10 minutes.

    You can get a $34.99 package. You can buy a $12,000 car. You do not get to add options and keep the price the same just because you want it.

    • chadraytay says:

      It’s bad fine print for several reasons.

      The blackout fine print is bad because they charge an enormous fee to watch “ALL” NFL games in their sunday ticket promotion. Yeah… all, minus blackouts…

      The local channel is bad because, yes, they would have people trying to get channels from all over the place and that would be ridiculous. However, you do have area’s like mine that make that fine print bad.

      Our “Local” channel areas were defined by a moron. Directv has to offer only the channels a person lives in the area for. Instead of being able to get the channels of the town I actually go to and shop in which is 29 miles down a 4 lane highway, we get our locally defined stations from the northwest, 48 miles away, half 4 lane, half 2 lane, half potholes.

      Worse yet, people in the town 19 miles south of us ALSO have to get the northwest town as local. Even though it’s a 67 mile trip for them, and 38 to the other town.

      So yes, it’s bad fine print.

      • JMILLER says:

        Except DirectV does not make those decisions. Talk to your local TV station or the NFL. The NFL has determined the blackout restrictions, as has all the other sports leagues.The determination of what “your area” is, is determined by what is considered your area for the local tv stations. They don;t care where you shop. I live closer to Toledo, Ohio, than I do to downtown Detroit, but I am in the metro Detroit TV market. That was not decided by DirectV. DirectV does NOT have the option as to which stations it has for carrying. Look up the term “must carry” and you might learn a little bit.

  14. Beeker26 says:

    None of this is new, and it’s no different than any of the other utility companies. The base price of the monthly service is $34.99 a month. But things like HD and DVR service cost more. Add in taxes, fees, and surcharges and your $34.99 a month suddenly becomes $70. IIRC the normal contracts are 12 month, but if you want HD or DVR service those contracts are 24 months.

    How is this any different than getting phone service for $14.99, only to find out if you want Caller ID and voicemail you have to pay more for it? And then another $20 in taxes/fees/surcharges for a total of $40 a month?

    It’s all the same. If you’re going to go after DirecTV then you need to hit up Dish, Comcast, Time-Warner, AT&T, Verizon, Embarq, Cox, and all the other cable, satellite, and phone companies, cause they are ALL guilty of the exact same thing.

  15. JoeTheDragon says:

    Comcast is just as bad and some of there deals say free HD for X time with no HD or equipment fees but the fine print says equipment fees are not part of the listed price.

  16. Egregious Philbin says:

    I spent an hour with some sleazebag from Direct TV on the phone, trying to get them to tell me what my monthly charge would be. So much evasion, so much BS. Add in the fact that you are stuck for 24 months, and they reset you back to month 1 whenever you make a change…and there is no way in hell I’ll pay for this crap.

  17. teh says:

    Can they look at cell phone pricing next?

  18. Levk says:

    nice about time they always raise there prices and its a hassel for current costumers to get good deals

  19. A.Mercer says:

    I written the following for another post but it applies even better here:
    I remember taking a class in theater and they were talking about theater ads and how the actor’s union has placed rules on these ads thru years of various negotiations and so forth. The part that I remember is the actors names on these ads cannot be smaller than a certain percentage of the play title (which is usually the largest sized font on the ad). It was like a half or a third or something. I do not remember how much.

    I think that financial ads should have a rule like this prohibiting super small print. The smallest print on the ad cannot be smaller than a certain percentage of the largest print. So, if they want big, bold letters in their title, they will have to list everything in a readable sized font. If they want to hide stuff in small font then the main lettering of the ad would have to be also pretty sized font and therefore less likely to get noticed.

    Another thought I am adding to this is maybe there should be some extra regulation of the word “Free”. If a business uses this in their ads and it turns out to be wrong then there should be some hefty fines tossed in. Sort of like the hate crimes laws, except this is for using this very often misused word. Buyers love to hear “Free” and many will drop all of their guards at the sound of it. That is why marketing people love it. They toss it around like it was candy. Of course, they do not mean it but they use it (like in the example in this post). If advertisers faced the possibility of a huge fine if they use that word and not truly mean it then I bet that it will start to be used less and less. Its synonomous words and phrases should also be in that list as well. “No charge”, “no extra charge”, “complimentary”, “on the house” and so forth.

  20. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    This must really vary a lot by location. My install guy was great, and the phone support people have always spelled out the fees. The cost of the base package is pretty comparable to what cable charges for a similar package.

    The phone company that we bundle it with has been a headache to work with, but that’s hardly a new experience.

    More about my experience: http://www.thesoapboxers.com/review-of-directv-7-months-later/

  21. CookiePuss says:

    I absolutely hate DirecTV. I’ve had nothing but problems with them from day 1. My biggest issue concerning misleading advertising is how they advertise the latest in receiver technology. They show them in commercials, have them plastered all over the site touting the latest model features, claim all the extra hard drive space over Dish models, etc. Then when I sign up and pay the $99 upfront fee for the box they send me a 6 year old refurbished POS. The HD model they sent (H20-600) was apparently recalled before I was a customer as it was known to overheat causing all kinds of problems. The HR20 HDDVR had half the hard drive space as current models and lacked other features as well(like missing an Ethernet port to connect to my home network.

    I had the unit for 2 days but they refused to swap it out for any other model until it breaks, unless of course I wanted to pay another $99 for another box. Even then they couldn’t guarantee which box I would get, for that I’d have to get it from a 3rd party retailer. Of course if and when you ever decide to do that your contract is renewed for another 2 years. So I was stuck with a box that gets so hot it can melt the access card and read reports of it catching fire–awesome.

    Seriously, there were so many hassles and headaches I can’t wait until my contract is up. I passed on ordering Sunday Ticket(which was the only reason I went with DirecTV) and dropped my premium channels. It sucks but it sucks more handing my money over to the bastages.

    • CookiePuss says:

      Oh, and just to comment on the fine print in the contracts–its actually laughable. The clause that you can never file a small claim but have to go through an arbitrary service. (I thought its been shown in court that companies can’t require that?) They even have a clause stating they aren’t responsible for any warranty on the boxes at all. Even though the manual says they have say a 90 day warranty, the ToS state no warranty is guaranteed.

      It’s even the things not in the contract. When I requested to swap the H20 they claimed they never said on the site which box they will ship. So they show the new models on every page, advertise them in their commercials touting all the features, but then state they never actually say thats the box your going to get when a 6 year old refurbished model shows up. Unreal.

  22. Destron says:

    When I had Comcast I paid $140 a month, with basic cable, no HD, no DVR, I didn’t even have a receiver of any kind hooked to my TV, and internet.

    I Switched to a Quest/Direct TV bundle and without any promotional pricing I pay $114 a month for 4 HD DVR Receivers VOIP Phone, and Internet that is 3 times faster than my Comcast internet despite being a smaller package.

    When I signed up for Direct TV every single penny I would pay was explained to me, and when the tech showed up to install, he went over an entire check list with me and had me initial every point so that I knew exactly what I was paying for. My receivers were brand new and I have not had any issued with them, I did not buy them I opted to lease them which is a much better option from a replacement standpoint.

    As for installation, it plainly says BASIC installation is free, and there are limits on how much cable wire and time are used on a basic installation, but I don’t remember them now, but basically if you expect them to spend 8 hours hooking it up and not charge you anything that’s insane. If the installation is going to cost over a certain amount of money – it is no longer basic. A lot of people with brand new houses want a satellite slapped on their house with DVRs (which require TWO wires per box) run to six different rooms all over the house and don’t want a single piece of cabling visible. It’s going to cost you because that is no longer basic.

    Life is full of crap that will screw you hard if you don’t read the fine print, so of someone does not read the print and gets screwed then I guess they deserve it.

  23. Miss Oli says:

    We’ve had DirecTV for better than 15 years now and the package prices are never the same as what’s billed each month. You have to add in taxes, fees, surcharges, rental charges, etc., and that’s easily another $25 more above the touted package price.

    They have not dropped the HD fees for existing subscribers, however, if you wish to convert to auto-draft payments, they’ll drop the $10 HD fee from your monthly bill. I don’t trust them or their auto drafts ever since they drafted a payment three times for the same month a few years ago and created all kinds of havoc. Yes, they refunded the overcharges about two weeks later, but that’s beside the point and I still don’t trust them.

    Also, even if you purchase your own DVR, you’re still charged a $5 monthly fee for having service on it if it’s a secondary or third machine. That’s a policy they put into effect two or three years ago. We’d purchased our machine outright from a dealer and paid full price for it. When we put service on the machine, DirecTV said they no longer recognized any DVRs as being owned by customers, even if the customer did pay full price for it from a dealer. Any machine, no matter when it was purchased, how much was paid or who you bought it from, it was still considered the property of DirecTV, therefore subject to a $5 lease fee per month.They said we should feel good knowing that if anything ever happened to the machine that they’d replace it, “free.”

  24. FrugalFreak says:

    Go get em Crockett & Tubbs. It is about time to push truth in advertising. For far too long has America given businesses free rein to draw their own ethical lines in the sand.

  25. JMILLER says:

    If having common sense and not expecting something for nothing, then I will stay anti-consumer. Of course you can not argue with facts, you prefer a silly one sentence line that says nothing. Typical of those who think they are entitled.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      > If having common sense and not expecting something for nothing,

      Expecting a company to honor their advertised prices is not “expecting something for nothing”.

      $35 per month is about what DirecTV’s basic cable package is worth really.

  26. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    I totally agree with the lawsuit, and not just for DirecTV. All advertising should be required by law to avoid misleading (also known as “lying”). Just because you put a tiny disclaimer at the end stating that what you’ve been blaring at the audience for the last thirty seconds is not true does not make it less of a lie.