Listen To A U.S. Senator Try To Get Bogus $8 “Protection” Fee Removed From Cable Bill

You’d think that being the senior U.S. Senator from Missouri would help Claire McCaskill get better service from her cable company, but you’d be wrong. As this recording demonstrates, the legislator has just as much trouble as the rest of us trying to get anything resembling decent service from her pay-TV provider.

Having just concluded participating in a Senate subcommittee investigation into cable company billing practices [MORE ON THAT HERE], McCaskill thought she’d take what she learned and try to finally have her provider remove a $8/month “protection” fee that the senator never okayed.

Thankfully, Sen. McCaskill recorded the call for posterity:

[NOTE: Based on some of the lingo used, it appears to be DirecTV, though that the company’s name is redacted from the recordings]

For those who can’t or don’t want to listen, you won’t be surprised to learn that the immediate response from the customer service rep isn’t to oblige the senator’s request to have the fee removed, but to explain — robotically, from a script — what the protection plan is.

“Let’s just say if it’s your equipment and something goes wrong with it, don’t you have to fix it anyway if I’m going to be able to get the service I’m paying for since you own the equipment?”

The rep’s response is to explain that this covers things like, “if your remote control stops working,” but when the senator asks what it would cost to have a repair like that done without the plan, the rep says “that information is actually with our equipment department.”

“I just want to find out about why I cannot this $7.99 for the protection plan,” counters McCaskill.

“I’m not saying I’m not able to take it off,” explains the rep, “I’m just letting you know the benefits that you get with the protection plan.”

But that’s when the rep drops the Additional Fee Hammer: “If I actually have the protection plan taken off, there would be a $10 disconnection fee.”

“What am I paying for?” asks the senator. “For you just to quit charging me for this service I’m paying you $10?… You’re going to charge me $10, and I have no choice — you have to do that?… You have no discretion on whether to waive that $10… you’re telling me that’s required.”

Sayeth the robot rep, “We really do value your business. It’s just the policy.”

Asks McCaskill, “If I told you I was going to go ahead and terminate my service, would you have the ability to give me some sort of lesser price?”

The senator eventually gets through to a “retention specialist,” who makes her sit through several minutes of nothing before she’s eventually able to ask why customers are expected to pay for service when equipment owned by the pay-TV company breaks.

“The equipment is under your care… and we’re not the only company in the industry that charges for service calls,” explains the special specialist.

He then explains that the $10 cancelation fee is for people who cancel the protection plan before a year is up. But it’s only after she asks when she supposedly signed up for the program that the retention specialist notes that it’s been more than a year.

“If I hadn’t threatened to quit [my service], you wouldn’t have ever gotten to me and I would have been charged the $10,” McCaskill points out.

She eventually gets the $8/month fee removed and some credits added to her account, but not until after she wrings a truly telling statement from the retention rep.

When she asks whether staff is trained to upsell the protection plan because it’s a profit center for the company, the rep curtly responds, “If we’re not making profit off every single line-item, we’re doing something wrong.”

Take those words, think on them a minute, then revisit the bills we recently went through line-by-line.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.