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An open letter sent to DirecTV concerning deceptive practices


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#1 of 23 Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 16 2008 - 11:34 AM

Dear Ellen Filipak,


This is an email I hope you will take very seriously as I feel
it will bring to light a problem I think your company needs to
take very seriously.

I have been a DirecTV subscriber for the past 10 years, slowly
adding new services to the point that the company considered
me a "Premier" subscriber (whatever that actually entails).

You would think as a long-time subscriber in excellent standing
that I would be treated in a respectful and appreciative manner
by the staff and their Supervisor who are employed within the
calling center. I must say, the more I researched the amount
of complaints that were reported across the Internet, the more
my eyes were opened concerning the type of company that I have
been dealing with all these years....but I am getting slightly
ahead of myself, so, allow me to start from the beginning...

Quite simply, I have had intentions of leaving DirecTV for
about a year now. I had a good 10 year run, but with your
escalating prices and a new kid in town by the name of
Verizon Fios, I decided it was time to give someone else
a try. Only thing holding me back was that Verizon Fios
was still negotiating to get MSNBC (which they finally rolled
out this month).

Over the past year I had been receiving mailings to my
home telling me that DirecTV was upgrading their equipment
and that unless I had my current MPEG-2 Tivo and dish
replaced I would lose channels. I hesitated to upgrade since
I did not want to get into a new 2-year commitment knowing
I was eventually going to Verizon. I threw all the upgrade
notices in the trash.

Then your mailings suddenly changed. As of October. You
were offering a FREE "HD SWAP" stating that it was absolutely
a necessity that I upgrade my equipment and that it would be
done for FREE with absolutely NO COMMITMENT. This was
confirmed by your phone rep when I signed up for the upgrade
and by the installer who came to my home. Both told me these
were necessary upgrades, I would lose channels without it, and
that there would be no commitment.

So, imagine my shock this morning when I called DirecTV and
tried to cancel my account and was told I would be slapped with
a $480 early termination fee. I argued my point to the phone
rep who knew nothing of the FREE HD SWAP offer.

Next, I was connected with a Supervisor by the name of Chris
who was the most inconsiderate SOB I have every had the
displeasure of speaking with. He was condescending, kept
cutting me off and was totally unsympathetic to my situation
to the point where I was yelling at him that his company was
a "bunch of F'ing liers." Let me make it clear that I never used
the actual expletitive other than the letter "F." I usually never
get to the breaking point with a customer rep that I feel I have
to say something like that, but Chris made it clear in his tone
and mannerisms that I was bothering him, I was wrong, and he
was not going to assist me.

The next thing I did was pick up the phone and called the office
of DirecTV CEO Carey Chase. It was there I spoke with the
first real humanistic person related to your company, a lovely
lady who took the time to listen without any argument. She admitted
that DirecTV did have a FREE HD SWAP with no commitment, but
that there is a widespread problem of accounts being tagged otherwise
as the DirecTV computers can't tell the difference between a
contract and non-contract account. By the end of the phone
call she made certain that I would not be charged a termination
fee.

I then started doing research across the Internet to see just
how many people out there were having the same problems
I was. Ellen, you should really do this kind of research. From
Tivo to DBS forums alike, there are a lot of angry people out there
who are accusing DirecTV of all kinds of deceptive practices
that could be considered criminal. You should see the amount of
complaints from people whom were led to believe they were being
upgraded without any contractual commitment and then told otherwise.

Here is one of several websites I found that you might want
to browse through:

Consumer complaints about DirecTV


Additionally, there seems to be a disturbing trend amongst the
reports concerning the attitudes of DirecTV customer support and
their Supervisors towards consumers with legitimate problems.
As one phone rep explained to me, "The Supervisors and phone
reps do not have the power to credit accounts." In fact, they
told me to write the Billing Dispute center and then wait up to
two weeks for a response. Is this how you convey satisfactory
service towards your consumers?

I have found Internet forums where Insiders who work for
the company are reporting that reps do their best not to mention
commitments of any kind to customers signing up for service. It
seems obvious that "commitment" is a taboo word to mention to
customers.

Based on my experiences today, I am confident there is a problem
with DirecTV. Phone reps and their Supervisors have no authority
to handle problems so they become argumentive and condescending
towards a customer who should be treated with much more respect.

As much as DirecTV has tried to "woo" me with offers to stay
with them instead of going to Verizon, I must say that I am a bit
shaken by my experiences today. I have never, ever, been
treated so disrespectfully by any company and I feel that Chris
the Supervisor owes me a phone call of apology.

Furthermore, I feel it is my duty to further educate other people
who may be leaning towards going to DirecTV and are not aware
of the deceptive practices that are going on.

I plan to post this letter on the Internet, as well as my own forum
which is one of the largest and most read Home Theater discussion groups. I
genuinely feel that DirecTV is in a nasty decline as far as the manner
in which they advertise to and treat their customers. I feel this is
information that needs to be put out there so that nobody has to be
treated as poorly as I was today.

Thank you for your time.


---
Ronald Epstein
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#2 of 23 gene c

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Posted December 17 2008 - 11:53 AM

I got kinda screwed from Dish Network about two years ago, but not as bad as you did from Direct TV. I was a pretty happy Direct TV customer for 8 years but when AT&T partnered with Dish Network I made the switch. Reason being, my brother works for AT&T.

About a year later, Dish also said they needed to up-grade the dish and receiver to offer more channels. Signing up for a two year agreement got me a $10 monthly discount off my fee which I was assured would remain the same for the life of the agreement. At the time I was receiving about 12 HD channels as well as the locals in HD. Well, about a month later 7-8 of those HD channels were moved to a more expensive HD package. Obviously they knew this was going to happen, but they never said a word.

Now my brother tells me AT&T will most likely end it's relationship with Dish early next year and move over to DirectTV. Unfortunately AT&T's U-Verse isn't offered in my complex yet. I was thinking of going back to DirectTV but haven't decided yet.

Anytime I sign up for one of these "commitments" I almost expect something will happen eventually. But I still feel betrayed, afterwards.
"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#3 of 23 Barry_B_B

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Posted December 20 2008 - 09:56 AM

Disturbing. My wife and I recently pulled the plug on a second attempt to move to FIOS; the first time they never showed up for the install since the 3rd party agreement was never completed (?), the second after we read the complaints on service and SD video quality with Verizon. The reason we're even considering the change is the poor signal quality and recording issues since DTV launched the new satellites and we we forced to give up the old TiVO receiver to get the new stations. Before that we rarely had issues; now my wife is afraid to record anything in HD since you may be greeted with pixelated images or nothing at all. To their credit I've never had an issue with customer service and picked up the HD TiVO unit as a free upgrade; but as soon as they launched the new sats and took away channels we already had, only to be told that we could still get them by paying more for a different package I've been looking for an alternative. We're on the third receiver since the sat launch trying to get decent consistent service. It hasn't worked.

#4 of 23 Scooter

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Posted December 20 2008 - 10:05 AM

The "Third Party Agreement" is from whomever solicted you to subscribe. I was selling FiOS for a time, working for a company called 2020. Someone dropped the ball on the paperwork or, as was my experience, a glitch between my company and Verizon.

FiOS is THE best you can get, hands down. I no longer sell this, so I have no dog in this hunt. But for HD and internet...you can not get any better.

Did you sign up with a door to door guy?

#5 of 23 Barry_B_B

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Posted December 20 2008 - 10:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooter
The "Third Party Agreement" is from whomever solicted you to subscribe. I was selling FiOS for a time, working for a company called 2020. Someone dropped the ball on the paperwork or, as was my experience, a glitch between my company and Verizon.

FiOS is THE best you can get, hands down. I no longer sell this, so I have no dog in this hunt. But for HD and internet...you can not get any better.

Did you sign up with a door to door guy?

No, we called Verizon, made all the arrangements and thought we we're all set.

The reason we canceled the second appointment? Even though the HD is supposed to be better, faster internet, etc., there's a cost and learning curve we just weren't sure about. Not a technology curve, but what the system can or can't do. We switched to Comcast out of disgust with DTV - that lasted a week before we switched back. There was no comparison in picture quality, and after loosing phone service during a power outage enough was enough. I know we will, but at this time just not ready to go through a similar experience.

#6 of 23 Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 20 2008 - 01:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry_B_B
now my wife is afraid to record anything in HD since you may be greeted with pixelated images or nothing at all.

That sounds like it may be a dish alignment issue. I started getting no signal or a severely pixelated images on more than a dozen HD channels. A DirecTV guy came out on Monday and discovered that the dish was missing a bracket and had moved during a windstorm we had a while back.
Rich Gallagher

#7 of 23 Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 20 2008 - 01:46 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
As much as DirecTV has tried to "woo" me with offers to stay
with them instead of going to Verizon, I must say that I am a bit
shaken by my experiences today.

Ron,

Do you have a link to Verizon pricing and programming? I have FIOS phone and Internet service, and am happy with both. FIOS TV is supposed to be coming soon, but so far they aren't telling me anything about pricing and programming.
Rich Gallagher

#8 of 23 David Willow

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Posted December 20 2008 - 02:20 PM

FIOS became available a few weeks ago for me. I was tempted to switch from DirecTV until I really looked at the price. With my FIOS internet (which I love), it looked like I could save a few dollars. But (and there's always a but), I have 3 DVRs. DirecTV charges me $4.99 per month for each. With FIOS, it would be $16 each. Not much of a deal any more.

#9 of 23 boulderdashcci

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Posted December 20 2008 - 03:56 PM

Quote:
the second after we read the complaints on service and SD video quality with Verizon. The reason we're even considering the change is the poor signal quality and recording issues since DTV launched the new satellites and we we forced to give up the old TiVO receiver to get the new stations.

I'm not sure where you've read these, as I have never seen anything bad posted about the SD picture quality with Verizon. I have had the service for well over a year now, and the picture quality far surpasses Cox Digital cable (?-2003ish) and Dish Network (2003ish-late 2007). I'd say it's about on par with DVD quality from a decent player. From what I've read an understand, Verizon is using a less-compressed stream than others. I will say that some older shows (sitcom reruns for the most part) are a bit blotchy, but nothing to detract from the show and anything newer has a very high quality picture.
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#10 of 23 Barry_B_B

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Posted December 21 2008 - 04:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Gallagher
That sounds like it may be a dish alignment issue. I started getting no signal or a severely pixelated images on more than a dozen HD channels. A DirecTV guy came out on Monday and discovered that the dish was missing a bracket and had moved during a windstorm we had a while back.

We had the dish moved to the opposite side of the house this summer since trees had grown in front of it. Clear path now, and it was realigned at the time but I guess it could be out again...

#11 of 23 Barry_B_B

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Posted December 21 2008 - 04:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by boulderdashcci
I'm not sure where you've read these, as I have never seen anything bad posted about the SD picture quality with Verizon. I have had the service for well over a year now, and the picture quality far surpasses Cox Digital cable (?-2003ish) and Dish Network (2003ish-late 2007). I'd say it's about on par with DVD quality from a decent player. From what I've read an understand, Verizon is using a less-compressed stream than others. I will say that some older shows (sitcom reruns for the most part) are a bit blotchy, but nothing to detract from the show and anything newer has a very high quality picture.

Couldn't find the exact article, but did a Google search on FIOS issues...

#12 of 23 Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 21 2008 - 02:30 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry_B_B
We had the dish moved to the opposite side of the house this summer since trees had grown in front of it. Clear path now, and it was realigned at the time but I guess it could be out again...

You probably should check your signal strength. I made a list of the troublesome channels, then called DirecTV and asked for technical support. The technician had me test the signal strength on several satellites. When he heard some low readings he said I had either a cable connection problem or a dish alignment problem.
Rich Gallagher

#13 of 23 Barry_B_B

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Posted December 23 2008 - 03:12 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Gallagher
You probably should check your signal strength. I made a list of the troublesome channels, then called DirecTV and asked for technical support. The technician had me test the signal strength on several satellites. When he heard some low readings he said I had either a cable connection problem or a dish alignment problem.

I'm off tomorrow so I'll give it a try; is there anything they can do remotely or does a tech have to come out?

#14 of 23 John Dirk

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Posted December 23 2008 - 03:43 PM

I've had all sorts of issues with Dish Network and Comcast over the years, which is why I got off their respective runaway trains and learned to love OTA. I get all of the networks and a few extras such as PBS and our local TBS affiliate, all in beautiful uncompressed HD, and it's totally free aside from the modest cost of a tuner and antenna.
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#15 of 23 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted December 25 2008 - 12:54 AM


Pretty sad stuff, Ron. Reminds me of Denon's customer service. Posted Image

Quote:
So, imagine my shock this morning when I called DirecTV and
tried to cancel my account and was told I would be slapped with
a $480 early termination fee. I argued my point to the phone
rep who knew nothing of the FREE HD SWAP offer.
I never have understood why people get worked up over stuff like this from TV companies, cell phone providers, etc. Unless they can produce a document with your signature saying you agreed to an early termination fee, the charge is entirely specious and legally unenforceable. I'd just tell them, "Good luck with that" and be on my way.

Regards,
Wayne

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#16 of 23 John Dirk

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Posted December 25 2008 - 02:40 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt

Pretty sad stuff, Ron. Reminds me of Denon's customer service. Posted Image


I never have understood why people get worked up over stuff like this from TV companies, cell phone providers, etc. Unless they can produce a document with your signature saying you agreed to an early termination fee, the charge is entirely specious and legally unenforceable. I'd just tell them, "Good luck with that" and be on my way.

Regards,
Wayne

Well, I'm no lawyer, but I too think it would be ultimately unenforceable. The problem, however, is these companies are the first to place negative feedback on your credit report. No matter how specious it may be, getting it removed is an absolute pain in the a**. They basically use the credit reporting system as an intimidation tactic, which is just one of many reasons that system needs to be completely overhauled.

John
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#17 of 23 Kevin Stewart

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Posted December 25 2008 - 07:16 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt

I'd just tell them, "Good luck with that" and be on my way.

Regards,
Wayne

Good Luck with that.
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#18 of 23 Kevin Stewart

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Posted December 25 2008 - 07:21 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooter
FiOS is THE best you can get, hands down. I no longer sell this, so I have no dog in this hunt. But for HD and internet...you can not get any better.

For internet, I agree. That's what I use. For HD, not necessarily. My street was one of the first in the country to have FIOS available. As a result, I've seen quite a bit of FIOS in action over the last 4 years(I'm the A/V guy in my neighborhood and set up most of my neighbors -who have fios- equipment and I had FIOS for just under 30 days)

18 months ago, FIOS was clearly better in terms of PQ on HD (and SD) when compared to Directv. Since the conversion to mostly Mpeg4 with D*, there's no longer a FIOS advantage. The HD from D* (on a properly calibrated set) is excellent. Now, FIOS is excellent too, but it's not better. The SD from D* on Mpeg4 channels is also just as good as FIOS (and just as good as OTA).

Add in all the trouble FIOS has had with their DVR (regardless of what you hear about the D* DVR's, FIOS is worse) and their limitations (capacity, IR codes) and you can no longer say FIOS is the best.
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#19 of 23 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted December 25 2008 - 07:44 AM


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Stewart
Good Luck with that.
No problem. The former GTE Mobilenet tried to put the screws to us when we switched to Sprint several years ago. They're still waiting for "their" money.

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#20 of 23 Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 25 2008 - 07:55 AM

Just a few days with Fios and I am a bit perplexed.

Had a real bad time with CNN on both the SD and HD channels.
Lots of awful digital distortion and pixelation -- the same crap you
see with DirecTV when it rains. I called the FIOS tech and they
weren't seeing any problems.

I also see a second of bad pixelation on some of the channels now
and then. Not sure what is causing it.

Otherwise I am happy with Fios. Just need to keep an eye on the
situation.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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