I’m a single mom on disability – can DirecTV just raise my rates?

DirecTV is raising Kelly Yonta’s bill, and despite promises of offering her a discount, the increase seems to be sticking. Is she out of options?

Question: I’ve been a loyal customer of DirecTV for five years. I always pay my bill on time. I’m happy with my service, but have had to spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone with them, almost monthly, to keep my bill at a price I can afford. I’ve always managed to do so — until now.

I’m a single mother on disability and simply cannot afford more than $60 per month. Two months ago when they raised my bill from about $60 to $79, and I called to say I can’t afford it and would have to cancel, they issued me a $25 one-time credit and told me to call back next month to see if they had more promotions available to get my price back down to $60. I did so.

This month’s bill is over $80! I called again, and have spoken to no less than 15 different people since then. They lowered my bill to a little over $70, but I was having trouble meeting my monthly bills when it was $60, so I explained that I cannot afford more than $60 and would have to cancel.

My service is scheduled to be canceled in 5 days. They’ve called me every day since then to convince me not to cancel. They try to make me think they’re helping me out, but in the end, upon pressing for details, I find they are still raising my monthly cost by $8, and in order to get this great deal, I have to sign a contract.

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I know from the past, this is a bad idea because then they can raise your price and you can’t leave because you’ll be charged tons of money. When asked if they would send me something in writing saying they will not raise my price during the contract, as they have in the past, they said they can’t do that.

A DirecTV representative yesterday lied and told me that after a guaranteeing me a $29 credit each month, which he offered by phone, my total would be $58. But when I looked at my old bills, I discovered that my cost, before credits, is $103.

He actually told me, “Oh, someone else punched something into my computer. You’re right, it would be $74.”

I woke up this morning and turned on my TV to find a message saying “Not subscribed.” I called to tell them I wasn’t scheduled to be canceled for five more days, and a representative said, “I see you are scheduled to be canceled, so based on that conversation, there was a glitch in our system, and I will hook your service back up.” They did turn it back on.

The worst part of all this is that they are now telling me that the $25 one-time credit they gave me last month will have to be paid back now. They never told me that when they issued it. The person who issued it understood that I was only staying because she said there might be promotions next month that would lower my price to something I can afford. She never said if I had to cancel after all, I’d have to pay that back.

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So, I’m not only being forced to cancel my TV service because it’s higher than the $60 I can afford, but now they want to charge me $97 this month. My TVs are important to me since I’m on disability, and though I don’t watch most of the channels I get, if I change my package I will lose some of the few that I do love! Can you help me?

Kelly Yonta, Kingston, NY

Answer: DirecTV can charge whatever the market will bear for its TV subscription service, but you also have a choice: Take it or leave it.

The company should have played this one straight with you. It was raising your rates, and while it might find a coupon to offset the pain, the increase would stick. Instead, it left you with the impression — however mistaken — that you were going to continue paying an affordable rate for your DirecTV service. That was wrong.

I don’t know enough about your personal circumstances to comment, but I can tell you about mine. I’m not employed by any one news outlet, and I write this particular column pro-bono, which is Latin for “Huffington Post salary.”

I am not a DirecTV subscriber. In fact, I don’t have a TV at all. I catch what I can on Hulu or by watching what’s online, but I can’t afford to send $100 a month to a subscription TV service. Your circumstances suggest that maybe you can’t, either.

I do list the names and numbers of DirecTV executives on my site, and you decided to send a polite appeal to one of them. That resulted in another rejection, unfortunately.

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I can’t force any company to rescind a rate increase (that’s above my pay grade) but I can find out why its sales people continued to call you and make promises by phone that they never kept. I think you were being jerked around by DirecTV.

In response to my query, you received a call from the company’s executive office. Although a representative reiterated their refusal to lower your bill, they did adjust your last bill to $70. You are now free of this monthly bill once and for all. DirecTV has done you a favor by giving you several hours of your day back, and although you might not feel that way, I think someday soon you will be grateful for it.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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