My “protection plan” didn’t protect my move — now what?

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By Christopher Elliott

Nathan Witt is sold a “protection” package with DirecTV that covers moves. Only, it doesn’t. Now he’s being asked to pay a moving fee or cancel his service. What should he do?

Question

I recently signed up with DirecTV. After the installer had finished setting up the equipment, he asked if I’d like to sign up for DirecTV’s equipment and wiring protection package. He told me that it included service calls.

This piqued my interest, because I thought I might be moving in a few months, and so I asked him whether this covered moves. He said that it did — one move per year. This seemed like a good deal to me, so I asked him to sign me up.

I know you should get things in writing, but I trusted him, and I really don’t think you should have to have everybody you ever talk to at every business write down everything they say.

So, when I moved, I called DirecTV’s customer service department to arrange my installation. They informed me that the additional monthly fee I’d been paying did not cover this, and they quoted just under $220 to reconnect my service. Additionally, they asserted that the installer had no business telling me that because “he’s not even with this department.”

Escalation challenges

Honestly, I don’t care which department you’re with or how your business is structured. When a representative of a business tells me something, it should be reliable and the business should honor it. I escalated this up the chain as far as I could go with the special department they have just for people who’ve moved, and the way it was left was that I could either pay the fee or pay $360 to cancel the service. My choice.

I get that a service call costs the business money. I willingly paid extra on my bill to have what was represented as “coverage” against this kind of expense. When I made this argument to the representative, she offered to refund my coverage costs, but I didn’t accept. No matter – I got an email shortly thereafter indicating that my account had been credited for those charges, so now I feel like I can’t even argue that I paid for something and should be entitled to it. Any thoughts on how to proceed? — Nathan Witt, Dallas

Answer

I don’t like telling anyone, “I told you so” — but, I told you so. Always get something like this in writing. A quick look at what’s covered would have shown that the installer was wrong, and that your move wouldn’t be covered.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust anyone. But, as the Russian proverb says, “Trust — but verify.” Even if you’d taken the installer’s word for it, you might have taken a look at the terms of what you signed up for after you had done so. That way, you could have fixed the problem before it became a problem. (Related: Why can’t I cancel my DirecTV contract?)

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I’m a little ticked off by the way DirecTV stands behind its own product (or, more to the point, doesn’t).
I’m not a DirecTV customer, but as I review its “protection” packages, it strikes me that the basic service should really include many of the items you’re paying for. This kind of unbundling makes a consumer advocate like me very unhappy.

Since you didn’t get DirecTV’s promise in writing, you didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. However, that wouldn’t have stopped me from appealing this to someone higher up. I publish the names, email addresses and phone numbers of the DirecTV executives on this site. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

I contacted DirecTV on your behalf. It agreed to waive your moving expenses because of the misunderstanding.

Should the verbal assurances of a technician override a written contract?

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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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