Beware Of DirecTV's Auto-Renewing Sports Packages

Reader Ted writes to us about DirecTV’s auto-renewing sports packages, specially NFL Sunday Ticket. He says his subscription was automatically renewed even though he canceled.

Because he is billed through Qwest, he didn’t get a notice and is now stuck with the package. He managed to make a compromise with DirecTV, but wanted to share his story as a warning about the perils of Sunday Ticket:

Today I noticed my DirectTV bill was higher than normal, I decided to look a little closer. Come to find out, DirectTV had auto-resubscribed me to NFL Sunday Ticket, although I canceled it after the season last year. Now, it was canceled with no issues or warnings. End of story, right?

Wrong…I called DirectTV billing and was told “Once you sign up for Sunday Ticket, you will always be auto-renewed, and you should have received a notice in your monthly statement that this was about to renew.” I replied “But I don’t get a paper bill from you, I get an e-bill from Qwest, since this was a bundle through them.”

The guy then argued with me about receiving a paper bill, saying “You should still get a paper bill” and I pointed out my Qwest deal again.

He then told me that there was no way I was able to cancel the service once the season began without paying $230 in cancellation (the cost of the season) fees and there’s no way I could get a credit.

When I argued the point that I had no warning about the auto-renew (since I’d signed up via Qwest, I dealt with their billing originally, and nobody there told met his), nor did I get a paper warning, and thus, I should be able to cancel and get a credit, he said “no, we cannot cancel it.” I argued that “it’s as simple as flipping a switch somewhere, you guys have changed/canceled all other channels I’ve asked in the past” but again he said “there’s no way to do that with this package.”

I asked “What if I decide to just cancel DirectTV entirely” and the response was “
We’d be sorry to lose you, but you’re still paying for this Sunday Ticket, no matter what, we’ll add it to your early termination fee.”

Of course, I finally asked to speak to escalation, and was told “You are not going to vent to anyone else but me. And nobody else is going to be able to change this.”

I gave up, called Qwest. They apologized, got me to a DirectTV “escalation specialist”. He said the same thing “It’s policy with sports packages,we can’t cancel them or credit you in any way.”

I asked “There’s got to be a workaround, maybe you block those channels, but instead of putting a cancel in my bill, you just credit me, heck, I’ll even take partial credit under the guise of something else.” Stonewalled…

Asking, “well, how do I cut my bill down?” got a response of “You could kill HBO and Showtime, that’d save you $24”. I asked about those great deals for new subscribers, could they give me that? Nope, new subs only. I finally asked “Well, I’d like to speak to a manager on this policy”

It does have a semi-happy ending –

When escalated to a manager, however, the manager came up with a “new” package that cut my bill right back down to normal, and kept it that way. It means having a bunch of football channels I’ll never watch, but the prices will stay the same and magically, I get 30 more channels from now on. Not only that, she actually EXPLAINED why they can’t remove the service once you have it (they pay for “slots” at the start of the sports season, and they can’t get their money back). When it comes time for the Football package to auto-renew, I’ll get emails now, so I can call in and cancel beforehand.

Aw, Ted. We’re sorry. Maybe you can have some cool football parties at your house? Ted made the best of a bad situation, but there’s no reason why you can’t avoid it altogether. Thanks for the heads up.

(Photo:meghannmarco)