Cancellation Fees Must Die

After more than nine years and nearly $6,000 spent with DirecTV, I cancelled the service today since I’ve chosen another route for obtaining HD programming.

The problem is that more and more companies are making it very difficult to cancel (AOL and now Vonage are the best examples of creating barriers to cancellation by not answering the phone, putting you on hold forever, and other such goofy practices), and DirecTV has proven to be no exception.

One barrier to switching to a competitor is a practice, which I view as unethical and bordering on criminal, of putting in onerous terms and conditions that make it very difficult to cancel or make a switch by taking any change made during a contract, extending the term automatically, and applying cancellation fees if you choose to cancel. Most people make a change at some point during their time with a company and thus the unethical company can keep stringing people along indefinitely.

In addition to that, you and I have almost no recourse if we want to alter the contract before signing, negotiate or simply not pay these draconian fees. If we choose to tell them to go pound sand and withhold payment, they systemically say “F” you and turn you in for collection, eroding your credit rating.

Today’s DirecTV example is illustrative of this practice. Back in February, my DirecTV DVR went on the fritz and I went to Best Buy to replace it. Activating it at home later that evening, I was told that I’d wasted my money since they would’ve shipped out a replacement unit at no cost! We went ahead with setup, I returned the defective unit anyway and continued with service until today.

Turns out that the Best Buy receipt for that DVR had an agreement on it that said I was ‘leasing’ the DVR and was therefore signing up for a new two year agreement! Yeah I know, I should’ve just returned the one I bought after discovering they would’ve sent a free one or found another way, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ with all of the crappy terms and conditions we’re all supposed to adhere to with services like this one (and T’s and C’s that say right in them that the company can change them without necessarily even notifying us! How’s THAT for a blank check?).

The DirecTV cancellation fee? $280. Think I’ll fight it? You bet your ass I will, and if things don’t work out with my other option, DirecTV will never, ever be considered as an option again and I would strongly caution you to take great care if you opt to use them.

UPDATE 12/17/08: Received call from DirecTV Office of the President. Post here.

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9 Comments

  1. JC on December 16, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    So you had no patience and signed an agreement that now you want out of? Maybe you should read what you sign first…



  2. Steve Borsch on December 16, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Did you read the post? It’s not just about this fee.



  3. JC on December 17, 2008 at 7:24 am

    If you would have had patience, then the one you got swapped out would have not had a commitment….read it before you sign it!



  4. Pishabh Badmaash on December 17, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Seems like JC doesn’t understand the evil that poers directedtv. They charge for everything. I got charge on my credit card 24 months after leaving them. that was two years ago. finally i went to small claims court to sue them. they payed.



  5. Steve Borsch on December 17, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    JC,

    Pretty disingenuous of you to NOT disclose that you work for DirecTV for business: http://twitter.com/AshesForAdam

    Of course, this shouldn’t come as any surprise.



  6. JC on December 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I apologize for not identifying myself when I commented. I work for a company affiliated with DIRECTV retailers. While I am a fan of the product I’m not an official spokesman for the company.



  7. Ken in Northfield on January 6, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Sounds similar to my experience with Ferrelgas up at the lake cabin.

    After a spring, summer, and fall that we were unable to be at the lake as much as we’d like, we didn’t need to buy propane to refill the tank.

    Our reward for conserving energy and not buying Ferrelgas’ product? A $200 fee for not buying propane. That’s after paying a tank rental fee.

    It’s in the contract. Ferrelgas claims it’s a standard clause in all propane suppliers’ agreements with customers, which is only a contract in the broadest stretch of legal imagination.

    When the tank at the cabin is empty, I’ll find out if other suppliers are equally unreasonable.



  8. Cecilia Abadie on January 7, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I applaud you for this post Steve.
    The cancellation fees on cellphones, cable/satellite companies and other services need to be brought to public attention. Not because something is a common practice it means it’s correct. Most of us don’t have time to read contracts and we should join in the efforts to have those wild contracts with outrageous cancellation fees regulated once and forever.



  9. T Blockey on August 25, 2009 at 10:49 am

    It isn’t just the contracts but the fact that they don’t tell you that you are agreeing to one. At least with T-Mobile they always made sure I was reupping a contract with my phone or etc… DirectTV missed the oppurtunity 3 times to let me know.



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