DirecTV concerns: Read entire contract before signing

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A warning for anyone who has signed a contract for cell phone, television service. If you don't go through the pages of fine print before you sign, you could be making a very costly mistake.

A Chesterfield woman called us after it cost her more than $300 to cancel her Direct-TV satellite service. Her contract had ended or so she thought.

The Curtises are huge football fans, hence the big screen TV in the living room and the satellite service they signed up for in 2006. But this past March, Trish Curtis says because of family economics, she decided DirecTV had to go.

"When I called DirecTV to cancel, they informed me that I had to pay a $360 early cancellation fee and that my contract wasn't up until October 2009," said Trish Curtis.

Trish couldn't understand the fee considering they had DirecTV for 2 and a half years. She says the contract she signed only locked her in for two years.

"They explained to me that when my son's DVR was changed, a regular DVR to an HD DVR, we automatically renewed for another year," Curtis said.

That was news to Trish and she says DirecTV sent her to their website to review its policies.

"Nobody told me about. I wasn't informed. I didn't sign anything. But sure enough, it's in the fine print," she said.

DirecTV says it's not just in the fine print. The company says: "We understand there is always the potential for customer confusion - they may not have read their agreement or listened to the agent describe the policy - which is why DirecTV takes pains to communicate the terms of the agreement..."

NBC12 news obtained DirecTV agents' notes on the Curtis account. The notes say detailed terms were shipped to the Curtises with their new HD receivers last October. And, that Mrs. Curtis called this March to ask about the end date of her agreement. The next day, according to DirecTV, she called to disconnect the account because of a better offer at which time she was advised of her agreement terms.

Still when we searched the web, we found reports of many similar complaints about cancelling service with DirecTV. Complaints the company says it's aware of and addresses.

The Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs has received more than 300 complaints about DirecTV and is in the middle of a year-long investigation of the satellite TV provider. The state wouldn't confirm, or deny, whether the investigation is focused on DirecTV's early cancellation policies. NBC12's legal analyst says you have to read and understand any contract before you sign.

"People will say I didn't bother reading the contract because the sales representative told me what it meant. Well, if there is a dispute, it is the terms of the contract that will control, not what the agent told you," said Steve Benjamin, NBC12 Legal Analyst.

If you think any company has dealt with you unfairly, you can file a complaint with the state Office of Consumer Affairs. If the state finds a significant pattern of complaints, it will investigate and possibly take action against a company. You can find more details about filing a complaint click here.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.