DirecTV Install Techs Claim They Were Forced To Lie To Customers

from the what-a-nice-company dept

While so much attention is paid to the recording industry for its sleazy practices, it's surprising that DirecTV doesn't get more attention for its practices. You may recall a few years ago when they (before the RIAA figured out a similar scheme) sent around letters to anyone they suspected of using a smartcard reader (they got a list of buyers) demanding $3,500 or promising a lawsuit -- even if there was no evidence that the smartcard reader was used to illegally access DirecTV signals. It was a similar plan to the RIAA, where they made it clear that it was much cheaper to just pay up, rather than go to court and prove your innocence (even if you were innocent). Eventually, the company was forced to stop the program, as a court found obvious problems with the practice. Just a few months ago, though, we noted that the company was being fined for two different violations. First, they were telemarketing to people on the Do Not Call list. Second, they were fined for their advertising, which didn't make clear certain blackout info and (of course) additional unexpected fees that subscribers would get.

The latest news story represents even more fun for the company. Apparently, a group of DirecTV technicians in Florida (who work for an outside contractor) have blown the whistle on the fact that the company set up incentives that forced them to lie to customers, in order to get people to hook their telephone lines up to the DirecTV boxes. Technicians were told to tell users that it was required, or the device wouldn't work -- even though that's false. In order to enforce this, the company would fine installers any time a box was set up without a phone line connected. Unfortunately, the article isn't entirely clear whether it's the contracting firm or DirecTV who was directly responsible for the fines or the directives to lie to customers. DirecTV was contacted by the reporter doing the story, and they made it clear they plan to continue the practice of pushing installers to hook up phone lines, because users who do so are more likely to order fee-based content and can be more easily tracked by DirecTV. It's easy to see why DirecTV would want this -- and they could obviously turn around and say it wasn't about "fining" the installers, but simply paying them extra if they hooked up a phone line -- but, the fact that installers were encouraged to lie to customers and "do whatever it takes" to get phone lines hooked up is a problem. Especially from a consumer standpoint, it doesn't make DirecTV look very trustworthy -- even if the ultimate fault is with the contractor.

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  1. identicon
    Unknown, 5 May 2006 @ 11:32pm

    Florida Techs and phone lines

    Props go to all the fellow techs in Florida for giving a shout out to the world!

    Let me explain something. It's not the fact whether or not techs are forced to hook up phone lines, nor does it matter what the phone lines are for (I will guarantee you any IMPORTANT software update will be done via satellite, not phone. If you don't believe me, reset your DIRECTV BRAND receiver and type 02468 when the screen says hello and see what happens), the big deal is the MONEY! I can't speak for all technicians, but in my company we are required to have a certain percentage of recievers installed with properly working phone lines. If we don't hit this number, we lose a SUBSTANTIAL amount of money on our paychecks. It use to be just a talk from the boss, or even heavy Q.C. checks to ensure you are doing your job. Supervisors calling back customers to verify whether or not there is a home phone. Not anymore.

    IS IT FAIR to charge technicians HARD EARNED MONEY because 4 recievers didn't respond from Joe Smith's house because he only has a cell phone??? I can hook up every single phone line to all receivers I ever install. But if I have more than 3 or 4 decent installs that are cell phone only, I just lost nearly 20% of my paycheck for that week! It has now become part of the job to hussle customers into letting you run phone lines (for a charge or no charge, doesn't matter) by drilling holes in their new $300,000 home because they don't have nearby phone line, just so you don't lose HUNDREDS of dollars every paycheck. We use to be able to get by with customers refusing these services, but now it is affecting the technicians who don't have control over a customer's home phone!

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