Maybe DirecTV let this Genie out of the bottle too soon

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By Christopher Elliott

Steve Lipscomb upgrades to a DirecTV Genie set-top box. But it doesn’t work right, and now the company won’t let him out of his contract or allow him to downgrade to his old box. What now?


I was a satisfied customer of DirecTV for years. Then I upgraded to a new service called the Genie. I’ve had nothing but problems since then. The picture freezes and recorded shows jump forward by 30 minutes when you try to fast-forward through commercials.

When I called DirecTV, a representative asked me to start “logging” my problems. I’ve been doing this for six weeks now. They call every week and I read my log of incidents and they say, “Continue to log the incidents.”

Here’s my beef: I had a perfectly working system before I upgraded. To me, upgrade means moving to a better system. I have had nothing but problems. Their own people have told me they had issues with the system since it came out, and yet they continue to advertise it as an upgrade and required me to commit to a two-year agreement to get this upgrade.

This is deceptive. They should have to tell people there are problems with the system before they sell it to you and they should damn well not call it an upgrade.

I have asked for my old system back. They said they would have to charge me a fee to do this. I have asked them to just let me out of my two-year agreement signed at the time of my upgrade and they say I will have to pay a stiff penalty for early exit. I knew this when I signed up, but my point is I had already fulfilled my two-year agreement with them and would not have signed up for another commitment had they told me the system I was upgrading to had bugs they can’t seem to work out. Can you please help me? — Steve Lipscomb, Topeka, Kan.


DirecTV should have given you a working Genie, a set-top box which, according to the company, allows you to “enjoy a full HD DVR experience on every TV in your home, without seeing a box in every room.” If it doesn’t work, your two-year contract with the company is null and void. After all, they didn’t deliver a working Genie.

It isn’t too difficult to find other complaints about DirecTV’s Genie online. It’s unclear if the owners of those devices were stuck with a non-working device or were able to revert to an older set-top box which worked.

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It’s always a good idea to do a little research before accepting any “upgrade” from DirecTV. Knowing what I do now, I probably would have. (Related: Beware of free offers from DirecTV.)

I think it’s reasonable for DirecTV to ask you to log your Genie problems for a few days. But by the time you contacted me, this nonsense had gone on too long. I might have appealed your case to someone higher up. Here’s a list of current executives. The email convention is [email protected]. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

The takeaway? Newer isn’t necessarily better. Always do your homework before buying the latest and greatest gadget. Sometimes, tried-and-true is all you need for your entertainment needs.

I contacted DirecTV on your behalf. Your wish was its command. It installed a new Genie system and it offered you a 100 percent credit for the two months you were having viewing problems.

Did DirecTV do enough for Steve Lipscomb?

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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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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