DirecTV Screws Reader Six Ways From Sunday Night Football

About six months ago I moved into my apartment in Chicago to learn that the only service available was with DirecTV. Not only that, but we were forced to use MDU communications, a DirecTV reseller. With no options for television, I reluctantly purchased my own HD receiver off eBay (The HR-20) to avoid entering into a contract with them for two years. When I received my unit, I called MDU to sign up and the CSR at MDU told me that since I had my own receiver, I could sign directly up with DirecTV. Awesome I thought, I can cut out the middle man. The CSR at MDU even transferred me to DirecTV account set up line himself.

This being The Consumerist, so you know now is just about the point where the story takes a turn for the worse…

I went through the process of trying to get a signal, but was having issues so they dispatched a tech two days later, which required me to use one of my vacation days. The tech showed up and notified me that I would have to sign up through MDU because I needed some special equipment which they did not provide. Great, I’m getting MDU and DTV to point fingers at each other. At this point, I’m signed up for service yet still don’t have any TV. The next day I called MDU to get service set up and a tech dispatched FOUR DAYS later (burning another vacation day). The tech shows up and informs me that I needed some sort of signal splitter, he sets me up and I have service within the hour. This is not where the troubles stop…

Because MDU told me to sign up with DirecTV, I now have an account open with DirecTV and an account with MDU. I didn’t find this out until the first billing cycle. On top of that, I am charged for installation since technically I didn’t initially sign up with MDU first. So now I have MDU Access Fee + DirecTV + Setup fee’s. I spent the better part of nearly two weeks discussing, fighting, eventually yelling, to screaming at these people that their install process was why all of this happened in the first place. They agree to waive the setup fee.

A few days later, I go to check to make sure with DirecTV that I am not in a 2 year contract with them since I bought my own receiver. Low and behold, I’m apparently locked in for two years. I call customer service and they say no problem, fax us in your receipt and we’ll take it off. I fax in my information, the Paypal receipt, along with all the eBay printouts/documentation and am told that since I “got such a cheap price on the unit, they cannot waive the contract”. Wait what? I buy my own receiver from someone completely unaffiliated with DirecTV and you still wont waive my contract? Arent the 2 year contracts used to offer a “rebate” for buying a receiver from DTV?

I also opted in for the HD service, since I am a big Cubs fan and wanted to watch them in HD. It turns out however, that DTV cant get a WGN-HD (the main Cubs channel) signal in this building. I call tech support, they schedule another tech to come out, I burn another vacation day to learn they cant do anything about it. Fine, by this point I’m sick of them all and I can deal with one channel not being in HD even though its the main channel I got HD service for. I’m sick of the headaches.

The final straw came today.

Last night I tried to watch TNT-HD only to see it cut in and out constantly with no audio and that famous grainy “bad signal” picture you get. It was storming pretty hard down here so I didn’t think anything of it, figured it was due to that. But today I turn it on and get a message stating that the “channel is not purchased”. I’ve had this problem before (go figure) where the permissions on your receiver go a little crazy. All you have to do is call DTV and have them “re authorize” your unit and you’re fixed in a few minutes. Today was a different story. I call tech support to complain and they know it’s an issue. The reason?

Apparently on weekends, DirecTV has capacity problems with their system due to all of the “NFL Network” games so they’ve been having to cut service (channels) to everyone. Thats right, they’re DE-AUTHORIZING people’s access to certain channels so they have enough room on their system to provide everyone with their precious NFL Network.

Shame on you, DirecTV for advertising all your new, snazzy HD channels and then having to take them away from people because you dont have enough resources. What did they give me? Oh a free month of Showtime. Whoopty doo, Showtime sucks.

I cant even get the new HD channels they launched (and I pay for) because MDU wont upgrade the satellite on our roof.

….and I cant even switch to Comcast…….

A head-shaking tale of incompetence, poor customer service, and inadequate service. Can they really be called “service” companies if they don’t provide any? That thing about getting locked into a 2 year contract because “you didn’t pay enough” for your receiver on eBay makes no sense. You’re right, the 2-year contract is supposed to recoup the costs of them providing you with a discounted receiver. The NFL issue sounds like it won’t be fixed anytime soon, but we would escalate that contract issue. Escalate escalate escalate. Supervisor supervisor supervisor executive customer service. In fact, it sounds so wrong, it might just be wrong enough to direct your Attorney General’s office attention towards it.

(Photo: cmorran123)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    This story smells funny. The capacity problems part especially. Either one of their satellites that can be seen in the Chicago area is beaming the channel (in this case NFL Network) or not. They shouldn’t have to vary capacity or channel configuration on their satellites because more people want to watch a game.

  2. I got fk’n tricked again to come to this intersite!
    Damn you synergy (Fleshbot not included).
    And yes, American DirecTV sucks.

  3. jeffjohnvol says:

    Dude, you live in Chicago. Get an HD antenna. You probably would get great reception.

  4. warf0x0r says:

    I love how their system is setup so that if you want to purchase your own hardware its incredibly difficult for you to get service. Meanwhile if you go with them for hardware you’re just given a random peice of technology. That’s my biggest gripe with cable was our local area franchise has substandard hardware, but when I looked at DirecTV for models it just gave me a list of manufacturers and didn’t allow me to specify which one I wanted when building a package. So I can understand why this guy wanted to just go out and buy his own. He shouldn’t be penalized for it.

  5. proud-infidel says:

    I don’t buy this guy’s story for a single minute, I mean c’mon who the hell thinks showtime sucks!? ;-)

  6. 44 in a Row says:

    This story smells funny. The capacity problems part especially. Either one of their satellites that can be seen in the Chicago area is beaming the channel (in this case NFL Network) or not. They shouldn’t have to vary capacity or channel configuration on their satellites because more people want to watch a game.

    The only way it makes any kind of sense is if it’s actually NFL Sunday Ticket causing the problem, not NFL Network. NFL Network is a single channel that’s 24/7. But since NFL Sunday Ticket, on the other hand, is a collection of channels that (I think) are only really active on Sunday afternoons when they’re showing the out-of-market games, I guess I can see a way where, on the afternoons when those games are on, they might run into capacity issues. I still think it’s nonsense, but if it’s a real thing, it should definitely only be an issue from 1pm to 7pm EST on Sundays, when there are a ton of games on.

  7. gopher1978 says:

    This could be the exact letter I would have written except I’m in Minnesota. Right down to the missing part on the satellite dish (By the way, the part is MFH2). 18 calls to Directtv and a partner called West Choice TV. Each call taking more and more time, sometimes close to an hour. Each time I would step it up a notch, the next person would say they have the solution etc etc. The only way I can top the letter is I had ordered internet service too. They came to install that and within 10 minutes I could see it wasn’t going to work. I called Qwest (Directtv partner) and they said “oh, we don’t work good with apple”. I put the modem back in the box and sent it back only to get a bill 3 months later for service for a couple of days.
    All I want is my digital channels I was promised and then Qwest (Directtv) to go out of business

  8. lalala1956 says:

    Maybe stop watching tv and go outside and play?

  9. parad0x360 says:

    damn that sucks…

    Just so you know. Dish Network is cheaper and has 3x as many satellites in the sky as Direct TV. They have less signal problems, more channels, more hd channels, and more bandwidth to deliver all this content. They will also be offering ondemand sometime next year i believe as well as putting more satellites up for all the new hd content…did i mention they were cheaper?

  10. homerjay says:

    It seems most of his problem lies with MDU, but still he has this contract hanging over his head and the fact that DirecTV cuts back on service to supply NFL SUnday Ticket. In the DirecTV forums the channel throttling is a big bone of contention that is expected to go away in a few months when they launch their next sat and get it online.

    As for the contract, its some stupid loophole that allows DirecTV to recoup their cost of selling the receiver at a discount. If you got it for anything less than $300 for a NEW receiver, then DirecTV is ‘losing money’ on it because that receiver hasn’t brought DirecTV in any revenue yet to make up for the cost of it. The ebay seller was supposed to tell you that but none of them do.

  11. Yinka Double Dare says:

    So you tried to buy a cheaper box, and now you’re complaining that the company that you didn’t want to go through won’t give you the upgraded dish so you can get the extra HD channels. Last I checked, Comcast doesn’t let you pick your receiver either, you get what they give you. And had you gone the normal route of getting your box from DirecTV or their reseller, you’d have that better dish.

    I have DirecTV in Chicago and unless it’s storming like hell, I have no problems, and their customer service has been so vastly superior to Comcast and RCN that I don’t ever want to go back. We got the dish installed about 6 months ago and they installed the new HD dish. We ordered through their website.

    Basically, it sounds like you rolled the dice by trying to get it all cheaper. You lost. It happens.

  12. Crymson_77 says:

    Problem…did you SIGN the 2 year contract? If not, then it doesn’t apply. For a contract to be legal, both parties have to agree to abide by it. If you didn’t sign it, you didn’t agree…
    BTW, they are required to let you use whatever service you wish to use…there is this nice new federal law….

  13. dink23 says:

    @Yinka Double Dare: That is exactly what the problem is. He has the new box, but it sounds like MDU has not upgraded his dish to the new 5 LNB model that avoids this HD capacity issue. I had the older HD-Tivo box and 3LNB dish last year and occasionally Directv had to remove one of the HD channels to carry Sunday ticket. However, I upgraded my box and dish this year (along with the DirecTV launching their new satellite) and I know have 70+ HD channels and 10 Sunday Ticket HD channels without the HD capacity problems.

    Now as far as his other issues, it looks like MDU screwed him to cover their commission/buy down.

  14. markrubi says:

    First this person is an idiot for buying an HR20 off ebay. Mistake #1 and a big one. If you goto BB, CC, Costco etc you pay $299. YOu do NOT own the dvr. It says this in plain english on the box. Sometimes on Sunday Directv will cut off TNTHD for NFL Sunday ticket games. They still have the SD TNT channel up and running. TNT HD is nothing special. It’s just stretch o vision. Unlike the 30 or so other real HD channels you can watch. Much better programming then what’s being repeated on TNT. Goto for all your directv info. Dish too.

  15. gopher1978 says:

    What the writer didn’t say and maybe doesn’t even know is that Directtv needs to upgrade any dishes that provide signal for more than one unit. He indicated he lives in a bldg which I assume would be a condo or apartment. After many phone calls I finally was told that the reason for some of the problems including no HD on local and new channels was because of the missing part (MFH2). It affects those living in bldgs serving multiple homes. Nothing was ever said to any of the condo owners in our bldg about this problem. All literature stated we would get “all” HD channels including local. I’ve worked it out where I get a discount until it’s upgraded but it was a certainly a systematic coverup by our local carrier of Directtv (Quest) and only when pressed did they own up to it. Supposidly all bldgs in our county will be getting the upgrade early next year.

  16. markrubi says:

    @ PARAD0X360 Umm. At this current time Directv has more HD channels then Dish. Directv has Direct tv on demand in limited testind. Directv also has more local stations in HD. Dish is going to launch two more sats next yr. (figers crossed). Cheaper can be debated as well. If you dont have a phone line hooked up to each box then you pay $5 I think per. Dish’s HD package is $20. Direct costs $9.99 with an option tier of 5 more channels like HDNET movies , smithsonian, MGM HD, MHD. It cost $4.99. So still Directv HD package/s are cheaper. This is not the place to debate who is better. This was a story about a persons problems with Directv even though they were his own fault.

  17. Trojan69 says:

    I received multiple notifications from DTV in the summer that my apartment complex’es dish would not support the HD upgrade. I called the third-party vendor (DCI) that is responsible for this building and was told that we already had a 5-LNB dish and that DTV is crazy for saying otherwise. In fact, we really do have a 5-LNB dish.

    However…we don’t have the updated 5-LNB dish and I have not enjoyed any of the added HD famously available since September. When I called DCI in September, I was told there was no problem and that DTV hadn’t even launched their new satellite dedicated to the upgrade! (It launched in June)

    I have no options, other than to drop DTV altogether. Supposedly, DCI will be performing the hardware upgrade this month at my complex. What kills me is that the home office for the whole DTV enchilada is located directly across the street from the office of DCI in El Segundo, CA. When I ask customer service to ask someone, anyone in the home office, to simply walk across the street and demand that DCI live up to its agreement with DTV, I get verbal shrugs.

  18. EricaKane says:

    I went through the same garbage between MDU and Directv when I was moving into my apartment in Chicago. It was a total mess of being pawned off to other people. I didn’t want a 2 year contract and it was near impossible to do it with the MDU/DirecTV combo and I gave up and got Comcast.

    Its a real shame because the initial selling point (and why I went with them in the late 90’s) was that DirecTV was a “no contract” place.

    Now if you want HD programming, you have to sign a 2 year contract which just sucks.

  19. Buran says:

    Cancel your account and get rabbit ears and Netflix. This BS isn’t worth it.

  20. Buran says:

    @markrubi: So, you’re an idiot for deciding you don’t want to be locked into a contract and buying the SAME EQUIPMENT that you’d have gotten from a local store, only with contract?

    Real classy, that namecalling is.

  21. Buran says:

    @44 in a Row: And that still isn’t an excuse for disabling a channel someone is paying for. If I pay to get a channel, I expect that channel to be available 24/7.

    The OP needs to document EVERY time he/she has tried to use a given channel, gotten the error, and then call to demand credit for service paid for and not provided.

  22. markrubi says:

    @ BURAN

    I paid $0 for each of my hr20 dvr’s. You just have to play CSR roulette to get one either discounted to say $99 or just for s&h $19.95. Some are luckier than others get them for free. As for locked into a cotract big deal. If I want out I pay 12.95 per month I have left. I doubt I will be going anywhere though. Yes anyone who buys a DVR off someone on ebay when the seller doesn’t really own the equipment is an idiot. The same goes for the person selling the leased equipment being directv will be charging then the $700 retail cost.

  23. gniterobot says:

    Showtime doesn’t stuck. Dexter is awesome.

  24. StevieD says:

    @Yinka Double Dare:

    Absolutely correct.

    Somebody tried to save a buck and screw the vendor. Ooops, vendor screwing is not allowed. Net time play by the rules.

    BTW, I just love Over the Air HD on my PC. It is free, well almost as I did have to buy a TV card and antenna, and the reception is excellent.

  25. categorically says:

    @Buran: Do you pay directly for TNT-HD or the “HD Package”? I don’t think too many folks pay for individual channels (beyond the HBO/etc).

  26. TPIRman says:

    @Buran: For all your usual bluster and finger-pointing, it’s not like your response was particularly helpful. Rabbit ears + Netflix — yeah, that sounds like it would meet the OP’s needs.

    The OP has definitely been misinformed and poorly treated. In fairness, there is one part of the story that sounds incomplete to me. I find it hard to believe that the OP did enough research to know that HD equipment from DirecTV comes with a 2-year commitment but never learned that DirecTV owns all the equipment — i.e., it is leased, not owned, by the consumer. This fact is widely discussed in any digital TV forum, and DirecTV takes great pains to remind users, as well. The whole leasing-not-owning deal is printed right on the HR20 box.

    So the OP tried to get around the 2-year deal by purchasing a box off eBay. He says that his purchase was unaffiliated with DirecTV, but in fact this isn’t true, as he purchased a box that is leased from DirecTV.

    Hey, I can’t fault the OP for trying to work his way around an onerous 2-year commitment, but I can’t assign 100% of the fault to DirecTV, either, as they’re not exactly vague about their terms. (Completely agree that the CSR did a mind-bogglingly bad job of explaining things after the fact, though.) As much as it sucks, that’s their deal. It’s worth noting that the OP also got misled by an eBay seller who had no right to resell the box.

    As for the new HD channels, it is not as simple as MDU installing the new 5-LNB dish. In all likelihood, the building’s wiring also has to be redone to accommodate the added bandwidth from the new MPEG-4 satellites. (Those are the ones featured in those endless “70 NEW HD CHANNELS!” ads.) This is a huge expense for the building. Plus, the MDU equipment for this upgrade is VERY cutting-edge at the moment and not widely available. The upshot is that the vast majority of DirecTV customers living in multiple-dwelling buildings can’t get the new HD channels just yet.

    Aside from the contract shenanigans, the injuries to the OP are, as far as I can tell, that he had to watch TNT in SD for a few hours (he’ll live), and that he cannot receive WGN-HD (like 99% of customers living in an MDU building). I do think DirecTV should waive the commitment due to misinformation from their and MDU’s crappy CSRs, but a free premium seems like fair compensation for the TNT mishap (which, as others have noted, was a transponder-usage issue related to Sunday Ticket, and not willy-nilly deauthorization of customer’s boxes).

    Markrubi recommends, and I agree that it’s a great resource. There’s a lot of smart people there who can help you figure out these maddening digital TV issues.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I didnt “choose” to go with DirecTV, its the only option. They have a contract in my building. DirecTV or NoTV. I was originally looking at getting a used HD Tivo since I had one in college and was addicted but read that with the new MPEG-4 streams they would be obsolete. At the time when I moved out, the HR-20 the best decision and they werent giving them out like they tend to be now (as I read on fatwallet). I did not know however, that all equipment is ‘leased’ no matter where you buy. Personally I find the idea of paying $100+ on an item and not actually owning it is appauling.

    And yes, the tech on the phone with me actually said they were deauthorizing units to make capacity for NFL games (I cant recall if it was network/sunday ticket/other NFL offering).

  28. goodkitty says:

    Wow… this is a prime example of why we need to record all phone calls with service companies…

  29. Anonymous says:


    The box has no markings or fine print stating that DirecTV retains any ownership/claim on the unit. It says it requires a DirecTV satellite connection and service from DirecTV. Neither of which imply they own the box. I can provide pictures if you like. The CSR I talked to shortly after my first billing cycle also said that if I sent in my receipt as proof of ownership they would note my account that I was not in contract.

  30. Cary says:

    Yes, DirecTV sucks.
    Almost as much as Dish.
    Almost as much as Time Warner.

    That’s what Vasoline is for.

  31. LAGirl says:

    oh hellz no! i would open a can of ‘Attorney General Whoop Ass’ on them so fast, their heads would spin.

  32. Shok says:

    Folks, I can vouch for this story 100 percent.

    I, too, am in in a Chicago building that has the crap voyage that is MDU.

    The morons at my condo association went through them because the wiring in this building is old, and we needed an upgrade. MDU offered a discount on rewiring the entire 30-floor building.

    My receiver was routinely crashing on Sundays. It makes me want to turn green and get purple pants and Hulk out. The new software upgrade seems to have stopped this about three weeks ago.

    The problem is with the old dish on the roof. MDU isn’t upgrading, so we don’t have the capacity for new HD stations. No Comcast Sports Net in HD…I don’t get my local nets in HD either. I do get ESPN-HD, TNT-HD and HDNET among others.

    I use a Terk digital antenna to get off-air HD broadcasts, but b/c I’m in the city with a ton of skyscrapers, I get a lot of interference. Fox gets the nomination for most digital hiccups.

    MDU blows. Directv should regulate its resellers a little better. We don’t have the latest dish, even though we upgraded only last year.

    I know this is a tragic story, but I’m just saying.

  33. HOP says:

    we have directv and so far haven’t had any problems….waiting for the other shoe to drop

  34. langer420 says:

    Two words for everyone… Cox Communications. “your friend in the digital age” They are the best and hopefully someday the monopolies that grip various regions of our country will give way to free enterprise and consumer choice. How this hasn’t happened yet is beyond me.

  35. Zoom says:

    Anyone in 60657 Lofts know if they have the new equipment? I moved in in September and was shocked at how much I would have to pay for HD over and above the assessment. It was $4.95 / month for two normal receivers with no commitment, but if you wanted an HD DVR, it was $300 for the equipment, $200 installation fee, 2 year commitment, etc. My $4.95/mo with no HD turned into about $80/mo for HD DVR service if you factored in all of the fixed costs for a year. Needless to say I stuck with the over the air antenna. Then I got a bill from MDU for $30 installation of the second receiver that they never told me about. Jesus… It pains me that I can’t take advantage of any of the new customer DirecTV deals through MDU. What a ripoff. And to think I would go with Comcast to avoid this mess…

  36. SubPrimeLender says:

    I have had similar issues with DTV and I dont live in an apartment building. I cant comment on the missing TNT or the EBAY box but I can on the new channels.

    When they went online I tried to get the channels, and I could not. But I have a newer HD dish. Called – and they were not sure what the issue but they sent a tech ( which they billed me for – even though they said they would not. )

    The tech said that you cant have an antenna hooked up AND and the dish at the same time if you want the new channels. Fine – but I have tv’s hooked to antenna and dont really want to pay for a reciever on all tvs, also there are channels on the antenna I cant get from DTV (ex WTTW CHICAGO- DIGITAL 1,2,3 ).

    So he had to run a different cable and put a new hole in my wall to hook up this antenna. then he charged me another 70 bucks. ( even though I bought the antenna from DTV )

    Bottom line is – if you have DTV and an antenna on the same wire – you wont be watching the new channels

  37. rhanzelka says:

    They have sent 3 technicians out here to repair and it still doesn’t work.I
    have currently notified FCC, BBB, and Attorney General for the state of
    Texas. I will continue to complain to everybody that has ears until the
    issues with your service are resolved one way or the other. Also the last
    technician that came to my house treated our property like a trash dump.
    There are connectors in the yard under the switch box on side of house that
    he cut off (great shrapnel for lawn mower to kill or harm children and
    unsuspecting passers by) and trash on floor from stripping wire etc behind
    living room TV. We have been promised a visit from a supervisor for over a
    week now to settle the issues that have gone on since the poor installation
    in November of ’07.