Why won’t DirecTV let me off the hook?

DirecTV won’t honor Robert Savage’s contract. Can he cancel without paying an early termination fee?

Question: I signed up for DirecTV under a $200 Visa prepaid card rebate program that I received in the mail. This mailer came straight from DirecTV, not a third party installer.

After installing and activating my service, they refused to honor this rebate, stating that my account does not qualify, even though I did everything that was spelled out in the mailer, and the rep I was speaking with assured me everything was good.

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Additionally, they sold me their wireless Genie DVR system with the claim of being able to record five programs simultaneously. What they did not disclose — and this disclosure is nowhere to be found on their website either — is that recording five programs at once is only possible if you’re not using any of the wireless Genie boxes. Which basically means it’s impossible to get the service they claim that system provides.

Because of these issues, I consider the contract null and void. DirecTV refused to honor the $200 rebate, and also used false and misleading claims to sell me their wireless Genie DVR system. As such, I canceled my contract, but DirecTV is still trying to make me pay the early termination fee.

I have tried to get them to waive this because of the issues stated above, but they refuse. Please help me get DirecTV to drop this early termination charge since I believe it is not a valid charge on their part. — Robert Savage, Selden, NY

Answer: The $200 prepaid offer was legitimate, but according to DirecTV, the order had been incorrectly placed. In other words, DirecTV’s systems didn’t register it and would have indicated that you didn’t qualify for the rebate — even if you did.

“Several agents should have seen the note and taken steps to ensure the customer would receive the offer,” a DirecTV spokeswoman told me.

And you’re right about the specs on that Genie, too.

“We reviewed the disclosures on directv.com regarding recording capacity,” the spokeswoman added. “The customer is correct the disclosures do not call out that the clients take away from recording capacity. We sent the issue to our directv.com team and copied legal on the request.”

You’ve already received a $116 credit — the cost of the wireless Genie setup — as resolution.
But more to the point, you’re correct about your contract. DirecTV failed to provide what it promised, and as such, you shouldn’t have to pay an early termination fee. The next time they try that, contact one of the DirecTV executives I list on my site. That should put a stop to it.
DirecTV dropped your early termination fee.

© 2015 Christopher Elliott.

13 thoughts on “Why won’t DirecTV let me off the hook?

  1. One way to tell that you are dealing with an industry with limited competition (an oligopoly) is by the quality of the customer service, they don’t have to care b/c customers have few options. Direct TV has only one direct competitor, Dish. I have to wonder how many others were affected by this nearly fraudulent behavior by Direct’s CSR’s. As has been noted on this site, the pendulum seems to be swinging away from customers and towards imperious & avaricious behavior on the part of business.

  2. He was due an ETF waiver because of the botched rebate, but not the DVR issue.

    Because I love car analogies: A carmaker says the top speed of their car is 110MPH. We don’t accuse them of lying because it can’t get to that speed on a hill.

    DTV’s Genie box CAN record five programs at once, just not if you are also loading the box down with a wireless session at the same time. I would not expect them to go into exhaustive technical detail in the ads. (And, on another note, how common is it to want to record five programs at the same time you are watching something else? During what “golden hour” is there so much great TV on at once?)

    1. I love your answer, but I can easily answer what hour is the golden hour.

      If you have kids, every hour is the golden hour. I don’t know how many times I have gone to the DVR and see a bunch of shows recording. Or full. A common phrase in my house is “clear the DVR so I can record/watch something”. Between the networks, cable and such popular kid networks like PBS, Nick, and Disney — the DVR fills quickly.

    2. I disagree that “exhaustive technical detail” is needed to describe capabilities truthfully and accurately. Words do matter and DirecTV should use as many as needed to clearly state that 5 is the sum of number of active mini receivers plus number simultaneous recordings on the main Genie. And I am certain a good technical writer with English major can describe it even clearer.

      But the plot thickens: review the DirecTV FAQ and you will see that with the Genie you “can record or watch up to four”, and you will see “you can have up to 8 mini receivers”.
      So what is it 4, 5 or 8?
      What does it mean that “you can have up to 8 mini receivers”?
      I’ll tell you what it means – it means you will pay for all this but you will not be able to watch or record anything on all of them.

  3. QUESTION: If this consumer wanted to take legal measures, would he be allowed to do so in court, or is this an arbitration case?

  4. Who needs cable or satellite with all those commercials and frequent ‘bill discrepancies’ anyway?!

    Netflix, Amazon Prime and an antenna for HD content over the air. $20 a month right there, plus internet service.

    Cancelling is the best way to stick it to ’em!

    1. The antenna with HD is still going to get you commercials, but your point is correct. When SuperStorm Sandy knocked down my old-fashioned antenna, I was just left with my Netflix streaming & DVD as well as watching some of my CBS shows on their website (yeah for ad blockers). But then CBS’s programmers got involved and tweaked the site to detect ad blockers and basically say to us web watchers, ‘Too bad for you, you have to sit through the ads if you want to watch the stuff.’ No I don’t CBS. I just didn’t bother. Now H50 and Blue Bloods are on NF streaming & I can catch up. True, I did miss the last couple of seasons of the original CSI, so I am hoping it ends up on NF in the next year or so.
      BTW, I did buy an indoor digital antenna but for some reason my old tv & vcr can’t seem to deal with it.
      Question for you: Does stuff you watch on Amazon Prime have any logo on the screen while the show is being played? To me, that’s editing the content and I refuse to pay for anything that edits the content. That’s what I love about netflix; nothing is on the screen. No logos. No crawls. It’s like watching old-fashioned tv.

  5. Faulty captioning kills me. While my hearing is fine, due to a neurological condition, being able to read the text to stay connected to what’s going on even if people are being noisy and disruptive around me keeps me from getting annoyed because it doesn’t interrupt me. I can’t imagine how miffed I’d be if it didn’t work and I actually had issues with hearing.

    1. The captioning worked; it never stayed in sync or the words would get jumbled or it would get “stuck” on the screen. I have a significant hearing loss, so it was their loss when they didn’t bother to even try fixing it after my 2nd call.

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