Before you demand a refund, check your bank statement

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Christopher Elliott

Where’s Dannielle Beasley-Bundy’s refund from DirecTV? Is the check really “in the mail”?

Question: I’ve been trying to get my overdraft fees back from DirecTV for almost three weeks, and I’m hoping you can help me. DirecTV caused my bank to charge a $70 overdraft fee at the beginning of the month because someone signed me up for auto pay without my knowledge.

A DirecTV phone agent asked me to send over my bank statement and my account information. I faxed the info over the statement the next day.

I was told I had to wait 7 to 10 business days for someone to contact me. No one has ever contacted me.

I’ve called DirecTV every day of this month and keep getting the runaround and false information as to when the money will go back into my bank account.

This is my last attempt at getting my overdraft fees paid. My next step is court. I’ve been nothing but patient with DirecTV and I have had enough.

Dannielle Beasley-Bundy, Philadelphia

Answer: It shouldn’t take DirecTV three weeks to process a refund. If the company promised it would pay your overdraft fees, it should have done it right away, and especially in a situation like yours.

Clearly, based on the number of calls you placed to DirecTV, and the fact that your bank charged you an overdraft fee to begin with, every day counts. Stringing you along is no way to make you a loyal DirecTV customer.

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DirecTV doesn’t address refunds on bank fees on its website, but like all companies, it covers the fees when it withdraws funds from one of your accounts in error (say, it double-charges you for a monthly bill, overdrawing from one of your accounts). Most companies are extra sensitive to those kinds of situations, because they can put the livelihood of their customers at risk, leaving them with no money in the bank.

I’m not sure about the specifics of your situation, but it shouldn’t have mattered. DirecTV should have quickly fixed the overdraft problem, not waited weeks.

Repeatedly calling the company wasn’t working. I always recommend that you put your grievance in writing, starting with a brief, polite email through the website and then following up with a manager. I list the names and phone numbers of DirecTVs executives on my consumer advocacy site.

I can’t help but throw in a little personal-finance advice, too. If I were in a situation where overdraft fees might be a problem, I’d toss the dish and start saving money. Premium TV is a luxury, not a necessity — at least for me. Then again, I don’t own a TV, so take that for what it’s worth. End of lecture.

I contacted DirecTV on your behalf. A representative said you’d already been contacted and that the reason for your delay — a federal holiday — had already been explained to you. Interestingly, the company claimed that on the very same day you contacted me, it had refunded your overdraft.

Wow, that’s some coincidence, isn’t it?

If you’re the trusting type, then here’s your takeaway: Always check your bank account before you ask for a refund. It might already be there.

If you’re not the trusting type, you might want to call a consumer advocate before checking your bank account.

Either way, your $70 has been refunded.

Did DirecTV drag its feet on a refund?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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