DirecTV Admits Errors In Regional Sports Fees; Will Issue Credits To Affected Customers

We recently pointed out that DirecTV is assessing its “Regional Sports Fee” — the surcharge for carrying local sports channels in a particular area — unevenly, meaning you could be paying as much as $87/year more than your friend around the corner for the exact same TV package. At the time, DirecTV could not offer a reasonable explanation for this disparity, but the company is now apologizing and saying it will credit the bills of affected customers.

When Consumerist first contacted DirecTV and its parent company AT&T about its apparent Regional Sports Fee issue, the telecom giant would only say what we already knew: That regional sports channels can vary by location.

However, AT&T couldn’t explain why one relatively small ZIP code in the middle of Chicago was paying more for this fee than the rest of the city:

Or why monthly fees in Philadelphia — where DirecTV doesn’t even carry the biggest regional sports channel — ranged from $0 to $7.29:

Other reporters who picked up this story were also unable to get an explanation from AT&T, but Connie — the Consumerist reader who brought this all to our attention by pointing to the wildly varying fees in the Phoenix area — persisted in trying to get to the truth.

Connie tells us she finally got through to the office of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, showing them our story that backs up what she’d been trying to make to the company for weeks.

Stephenson’s office called Connie today, providing her with an answer that was very different from the one AT&T and DirecTV had been giving: Connie’s $7.29/month fee should actually be $0. Even better, she’d be receiving a credit for the incorrect fees, and AT&T said it was reviewing all DirecTV customers to see who else was affected.

“[The rep] thanked me for bringing it to their attention and she personally took responsibility for this error,” says Connie.

In an email to Consumerist, AT&T confirmed Connie’s account of the conversation.

“We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees,” reads a statement from AT&T to Consumerist. “We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error.”

We’ve followed up with AT&T to ask how retroactive these bill credits will be — will they cover all of a customer’s overcharges, or only some? — and also how the company intends on notifying affected customers. If we receive responses to either of these questions, we will update this story.

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