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
    Jeff, 14 Jun 2006 @ 8:52pm

    Abused by Directv!

    I never had a problem in the past with directv, but clearly this product is treated differently internally by the company. I ordered it from a customer service one night, assured that it would work. A few days later an installer came to our house, tried to install it and was unable to get it to work. When I got home, this new receiver didn't work, our other receiver no longer worked and two long cables were suspended on the outside of the house whereas all cabling ran though the walls, hidden from sight.

    We called directv and they tried to troubleshoot the loss of service. During this time, they evidently activated the new receiver. When they couldn't get it to work, they scheduled a subsequent installer to come back to our house. The new installer refused to repair the work of the first installer because he said that the first installer "botched" the original installation. Evidently, the second installer was only authorized to clean up the installation but because it wasn't actually installed correctly, he wasn't going to work on it until the first installer returned with their mutual supervisor.

    We considered this to be a waste of time and asked them to remove everything and return it back to where we started. After the second installer spoke with his supervisor and a directv supervisor, they removed all the equipment, restored our previous systems and left.

    Directv called a few days later and said that they were sending a fedex pickup for the receiver. We told them that the receiver was taken by the installer. The installers returned a few days later with the box and apologized for everything that occurred. Directv sent a fedex label which we used to return the receiver.

    We never received the 600 credit for the receiver even though multiple customer service representatives tell us that our record shows that the box was returned and that we are due the credit.

    Evidently, no one is authorized to credit anything over $200. We've been told by some supervisors that once an order is activated, there's no one that can issue a credit over $200. We are out $600 and we have been actively abused by some directv personnel who insist that since the box was activated, we can not receive a credit even though it was authorized, returned and permitted.

    I've never been able to get a true understanding on this issue other than it's clear that directv is very sensitive to this particular box. I think it might be either a known defective product, a difficult installation or both but I can assure you that if they can't get it to work, they have no means by which to credit you.

    I've initiated a charge back with the credit card company and intend to switch to comcast when we move in two months. For what its worth, we were a $100.00 a month customer with directv in the past with perfect credit and payment history.

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