On January 15 2011, I contacted DirecTV satellite services to review my account. The purpose was to determine whether to continue service with this company after having been a customer in good standing since 2003.
Disclosing that I was considering switching to another television service provider (cable/satellite) if I could not receive similar offered/advertised services from DirecTV, that others were offering, a verbal offer was made by the customer service agent, as follows:
1. swap out of a standard receiver with an HD-DVR receiver for 0.00 (I agreed to pay a delivery and handling fee of $19.50 + $1.50 tax to total $21.50 before the end of the call by credit card)
2. free DVR service for 12 months if I agreed to a 24 month service agreement and kept at least 2 receivers active on my account for an additional 12 months
3. free professional installation
4. maintain my current pricing plan with no increase in my monthly billing fee for 24 months unless after 12 months I opted to continue receiving DVR service at which point I would be charged an additional $7/month; if I opted to not receive DVR service, I would be required to send back the HD-DVR receiver and continue to have, at least, 2 receivers active for the duration of the service agreement (12 more months)
Once the details of the verbal agreement were stipulated, I asked that this be emailed to me for confirmation. Upon receipt of the email, I agreed to the "Terms and Conditions" (Exhibit B) that were available, as instructed by the DirecTV representative, by direct hyperlink in the email under "Other Important Details To Remember", "terms and conditions of your order", "as stated in your agreement" (see exhibit A)
On January 20, 2011, the installation was performed and my wife, who was not privy to the verbal stipulations, and the "Terms and Conditions" agreement, signed what she believed was merely a confirmation that the installation had been completed to her satisfaction. She also agreed to the inclusion of a "service contract" that was "free for the first 30 days."
As stated above, the final point of the contract/agreement was that there would be no increase in my monthly service charge. However, upon receipt of the February statement of charges for services from DirecTV, the DVR service had not been credited and an additional $1 was added to all receivers active in my home. The previous months bill (January 2011) was $86.93 and February's bill is $100.29, an increase of $13.36.
Obviously, the terms of the agreement we not respected and institued by DirecTV. If I had not reviewed the bill before my wife paid it, I believe that DirecTV would have interpreted this as a binding agreement through payment of services.
I contacted DirecTV customer service (800-DirecTV) by telephone. I spoke with a customer service agent (CSR), a supervisor (Ashley), and finally a manager (Dennis) in an attempt to reconcile the discrepency.
Ultimately, after some very heated dialogue, numerous long periods on holds, transfers, and lengthy explanations, I was able to get the agents and the manager to agree that the DVR service was to be credited for 12 months, that the service contract was not part of the original contract thus had to be removed, and that I reserved the right to cancel the DVR service at the end of the first 12 months as stipulated in the verbal conversation notes (only within DirecTV receipt but confirmed as existent by the DirecTV agents) and the "Terms and Conditions" received and reviewed by email on January 15, 2011.
However, what remains in dispute is the increase in the monthly "Fee" for additional receivers that increased from $5/month to $6/month. Both Ashley and Dennis, state that per the "Customer Agreement" found on the DirecTV website the company reserves the right to increase fees at any time. They also stated that notifications had been sent to customers about the rate increase. However, when I asked for them to reproduce that notification they could not and one stated that it was sent out over 2 months ago and another stated probably 2-3 weeks ago. When queried as to why this rate increase was not disclosed upon my negotiating of a new "Service Agreement" I was told, "well, we can go to lunch and when we come back things have changed". I spent a considerable amount of time reviewing old DirecTV emails I received to see if there was any containing a notification of a rate increase to no avail. Regardless, since no disclosure or representation of fees were introduced into the agreement by the original CSR, I argued that what ever increases occurred were not legal since we had negotiated a contract and agreement which clearly stipulated that there would be no changes i.e., additional charges, applied to my bill. Dennis argued that the Customer Agreement clearly states that the company reserves the right to increase its fees; I argued that the contract was null and void. He stated that I could cancel the service at which point I asked, "and how much will I be charged?" Dennis stated that per the Customer Agreement the company had the right to charge up to $480 however he was willing to take partial accountability for the lack of clarity between what was sent to me in email, and via hyperlink within that email, and the DirecTV website Customer Agreement. For this discrepancy, he would only charge me $5/month for twelve months and then $6/month thereafter for additional receivers. Understanding that this would be considered a "settlement of the dispute", I declined the offer.
Please assist me and the many other "customers" enslaved by DirecTV through these one-sided binding agreements. Fair and ethical practice establishes trust and a culture of justness. It is obvious that DirecTV uses deceptive, false, and misleading business practices. In addition, DirecTV forces its CSR's, Managers, and Supervisors, as well as it "Professional Installers" to commit collusion; the only time customers sign documents is after the installation is completed, not before, as stipulated as necessary in California contract law (http://www.lectlaw.com/files/bul15.htm). These documents contain "fine print" that attempt to nullify any and all previous agreements except the ones that benefit DirecTV and its affiliates. The signing of these documents is misrepresented as only to "certify that the installation was completed to the customers satisfaction," when in reality the document is much more. The document to be binding must include the stipulation of all previous verbal and written agreements,
"1623. Where a contract, which is required by law to be in writing, is prevented from being put into writing by the fraud of a party thereto, any other party who is by such fraud led to believe that it is in writing, and acts upon such belief to his prejudice, may enforce it against the fraudulent party." (http://www.lectlaw.com/files/bul15.htm)
Product or Service Mentioned: Directv Receiver.