SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) ― The nation’s largest provider of satellite television service is
getting some static from consumers. There are now more than 40,000
complaints against DIRECTV on the Better Business Bureau’s website. The
company’s also facing some lawsuits over its pricing and cancellation
Jin Kuang of San Francisco thought she was getting a good deal when she
signed up for DIRECTV earlier this summer. The Chinese immigrant
expected she’d be paying about $40 a month for satellite service. But at
$83.39, Kuang’s first bill was more than twice that.
“We were really surprised when we saw the bill, that it doubled,” said
Keng Gee, Kuang’s son. As it turns out, a slew of extra fees for
equiptment rental, programmin package, and special recording features boosted the monthly price.
When the Kuangs’ tried to cancel, they we’re told they’d have to pay a hefty termination fee.
After Consumerwatch called DIRECTV on the Kuang’s behalf, the company offered a $240 credit or a chance to cancel their contract at no charge.
Last year, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group based in
Southern California, filed a class action lawsuit against DIRECTV over
its cancellation policies. Consumer Watchdog attorney Todd Foreman said
the company can charge customers up to $480 to get out of their
Foreman also said the company sometimes scoops those cancellation fees directly out of customer’s bank accounts.
“All charges can be billed to your credit card or debit card on file at
any time. So when people cancel, 5 to 10 days later they get something
in the mail that says ‘hey you owe us $300…’ and if they don’t pay in a
couple more days .. it’s pulled out of their bank account” Foreman told Consumerwatch.
DIRECTV’s pricing also strikes some as a problem. The Miami-Dade
Consumer Services Dept. sued DIRECTV recently, accusing the company of
using ads that mislead cusomers about the actual cost of
DIRECTV disputes the allegations. In a statement to Consumerwatch, the
company said “proper disclosure process is scrupulously followed and
each customer is fully informed of the terms and conditions of their
DIRECTV also defends its two-year service contracts. It says, “These
agreements (24months) are common practice in the cell phone industry for
example, and enable us to provide customers equipment and installation
at little or no cost.”