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Free TV – but what’s the catch?

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You’ve seen the attention-grabbing ads. Get DIRECTV’s satellite TV packages for as little as $19.99 a month for a year! Throw in HBO and Showtime – “free for 3 months.” It’s enough to make you “ditch cable now” and head straight into orbit with satellite TV. But before you pop the corn and head to the couch, listen to this. The FTC says DIRECTV didn’t give consumers the whole scoop and their viewers got stuck with charges they didn’t know about or approve.

The FTC has charged DIRECTV with deceptive advertising for claiming consumers could sign up for a discounted 12-month service contract but never revealing some key conditions: DIRECTV required consumers to commit to a two-year contract – and during the second year, they hiked up the monthly fee. If you wanted to cancel before the end of the contract, you faced some pretty big cancellation fees, up to $480.                                               

Adding insult to injury, that “free for 3 months” offer for HBO or other premium channels was really a negative option. If you didn’t remember to cancel before the end of the trial period, DIRECTV signed you up and billed you for the premium channels – which cost around $48 per month. According to the FTC, DIRECTV typically enrolled consumers into the promotion without clearly telling them that they needed to cancel before the end of the trial to avoid being charged. 

Whether or not you ditch cable now, you should check out the details of any deal. When it comes to free offers, do some research.

  • What’s the buzz? See what other people are saying about a company's free trials — and its service. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to "catches" that might come with the trial. Search the name of the company and “complaint” or “review.”
  • What are you getting? Find the terms and conditions. If you can’t find them, or if you can’t understand exactly what you're agreeing to, don't sign up.
  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products — only this time you have to pay.
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your "order," you may be on the hook for more products.
  • What’s your exit strategy? Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don't want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
  • Read your credit and debit card statements. That way you'll know right away if you're being charged for something you didn't order.

 

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Well, how about Dish Networks? After I finished my contract which by the way, more or less it’s the same as Direct Tv, I was approached with a hostile customer service after I told them to cancel my contract after 3 years. Moreover, they told me that I needed to return the equipment to include the electronic device on top of my roof. I asked them how I will do that because they were the one who used a professional who installed that equipment?. Furthermore, I was replied that if I did not return the complete equipment to include the LNB’s I was going to be charged $148.00. Well, I had to pay $75.00 to a professional installer to disconnect this equipment and not only that, they are charging me with the UPS shipping which they sent to me supposedly free of charge. I would have disconnected the equipment, but I am a disabled Veteran and my house roof, it’s about 40’ high since is two floors. I don’t think that I can climb the ladder with the prosthesis on my right leg. Finally, to make matters worse, in Puerto Rico, where I reside, their customer service is located either the Dominican Republic or Main land in the USA so I cannot go there in person and make a claim or punch someone for their abusive practices.

was charged extra for HBO.it has taken 3 months to remove

DirectTV pulled the same scheme on us except it was with a "free" promotional sports programing package which not only did we not want but also never even knew we had until they started billing us for it after the "free" period elapsed. When I called to complain and ask that it be removed from our bill and programing package the DTV sales person started offering it to us at progressively increasing percentage discounts. Each time I said "no thank you" the more persistent the salesperson became and the bigger the discount got. It took probably the better part of an hour of mostly listening to their rehearsed sales spiel on the phone including being put on hold a couple of times but eventually I was able to get the sports package removed and our bill adjusted.

I avoided the trap on the HBO channels by calling in EARLY to cancel them. There was nothing worthwhile on them. When I tried to CANCEL the trial, it was like pulling teeth! I had to call several times and went through multiple reps who kept trying to UPSELL me. I finally got it canceled and was not charged, but their billing and advertising practices are really, really deceptive!

We recently moved from a rental home into housing that doesn't allow satellite dishes w/o a $10K liability insurance policy. We set up a payment plan w/DTV to resolve a past due balance and made the payment the rep asked for. The next thing we know is that our bank account was hit first with a double charge on the payment we ok'd and then a 2nd UNAUTHORIZED payment of over $200. When we called DTV, we found that our account had been turned over to an in-house collections agency and that the credit card you MUST provide at the time you set up the account was what they used to get into our account. Our bank has reversed the charges, but there is no promise that it will be anything but temporary. We were given NO CHOICE about providing a credit/debit card at teh time of establishing the account and to be told by DTV that they can take money from it any time your account becomes past due is simply not right.

Yes it's happened to me ... We needed service so in order to do that you have to give a cemredit card number. They said you're service is for one year... So everything was going fine .. Until one day we moved to a apartment second floor in a court yard.. Man came to hook up service .he said lady you can't get service here .. So I called customer service several of times and also put on hold forever .. Then I explained to the person that the man they sent to my new home what he said ... I told them They are going to have to let me out of my contract if I can't get you're service .. The very next day I saw they took unauthorized funds from my account. I then called them and also made my checks that I wrote bounce ... They related my account plus my bounced check fees.. Or I was going to call my lawyer and police

Yes it's happened to me ... We needed service so in order to do that you have to give a credit card number. They said you're service is for one year... So everything was going fine .. Until one day we moved to a apartment second floor in a court yard.. Man came to hook up service .he said lady you can't get service here .. So I called customer service several of times and also put on hold forever .. Then I explained to the person that the man they sent to my new home what he said ... I told them They are going to have to let me out of my contract if I can't get you're service .. The very next day I saw they took unauthorized funds from my account. I then called them and also made my checks that I wrote bounce ... They related my account plus my bounced check fees.. Or I was going to call my lawyer and police

I particularly love Time Warner Cable because you can talk to 2 or 3 different people and get different prices from each for the same things that you just got a letter from TV stating new rate that is totally different from the price you got from a phone contact. Heck they Confuse their consumers a day their employees at the same time. That's fraud somewhere. Aa

Early termination fees should be considered an unlawful penalty. Contract terms that indicate extreme one-sidedness in favor of the seller include provisions that limit damages against the seller, limit the rights of the consumer to seek court relief against the seller, or impose punitive penalties or fees on the consumer. An unfair contract term puts the consumer at a disadvantage that is not subject to negotiation. There really ought to be a law against fine print!

Satellite television has ALWAYS done this, Dish network does the same practices of required agreements unless you want to PURCHASE the receivers outright you HAVE to sign a 2 year agreement (very much like a cell phone, and the 480 is for early cancellation of the contract), and had those people READ the fine print they'd have seen the price hikes after the first year etc.

I don't work for either company, as I don't really care for them, but I have had satellite service with both of them and BOTH have these practices, the FCC needs to start looking at Dish Network too.

I started out with a discounted monthly plan of $69.00, 3 yrs later I am paying $110.00 per month. When this contract is over I am cutting the cable cord.

I was a loyal customer, but their unscrupulous ways caused me to take my business elsewhere. How can I get them to stop sending me junk mail twice a week?

This article explains how to Stop Unsolicited Mail, Phone Calls, and Email  from companies that you don't do business with.

If you're a customer of a business and you want them to stop sending you promotional mailings, contact them directly.

So this site only post want it want the people to see. Now who is calling the kettle black

The first 2 year contract, the bill was never right and I had to keep waiting until the following month for the error to be correct, but on that bill was another charge I did not agree to. A month before my contract ended, I called to cancell since I could not afford 100.00 for just tv. I was transferred to someone in Promotions and he said He could reduce the bill in half so I said OK. BIG mistake, the bill is back to $98.10. They will lie any time you call and promise that the error will be fixed. Just called and it will cost $440 due in 40 days to cancel early. What a rip off.

You are not alone. I had the very same problem with them and in the first year, they overcharged me 10 out of 12 months! Finally, I had enough and went to town. Every email ,every phone number provided, I was on it. I kept emailing, kept calling, until I finally got hold of someone who actually did his job. He even went the extra mile.for me. I was so sick of everybody telling me what I wanted to hear, yet not really doing it and this man helped me out sweet. Overall was it worth all the BS that got.me to this guy? He - double toothpick no it was not !!!

essica Rich I just dealt with this today with Direct TV in Owasso,Oklahoma. from skyrocketing bills and not telling me anything.. and cancellation fees ..I want to know how to get on the list against them to get refund check..They are deceiving!

The FTC recently filed a complaint in court against DIRECTV. At this time, the FTC is asking for a court order that permanently bars DIRECTV from engaging in the allegedly illegal conduct, and for a monetary judgment that could be used to provide refunds to people who were affected.

Plus, One or the other (dish or directv) makes you pay to ship their equipment back to them. Next, time this is one thing I am going to verify prior to buying. Plus, make sure prices are jacked at midway point.

All the companies are the same. I been w directv for yrs been shopping around for better rates, the dish rep was extremely rude and hung up on me before I did just bc I was asking Qs about rates and contracts-for this same reason. I ended up calling directv to see if I could get better rates and I was back to square one. Screw the loyal/ stuck customers like me! the good plans is how they sucker everyone else in. Have to stay w directv for now just downgraded my plan. They play around w channel lineups, I noticed and the cheapest plan has all the same channels I wanted minus the ones I don't watch and was paying $$ for. They know ppl want and need their tv so they prey on your ignorance.

D same here Bic. Been w/ them since 2012 and called for better rates, to no avail. Am considering ordering "new service" in my hubby's name just to get a better deal. I mean, it's not like they appreciate your loyalty, or offer a similar promo to the 2 or more year customers. They make it almost concience free

Looks like Dish Net has just done something similar to Direct TV and I have just filed a complaint. They offer a price of $39.99/mo for internet bundled with TV in 60 point type with no asterix linking to 5 point type elsewhere on the ad requiring a 24 month commitment and a mandatory $10.00/mo. equipment fee. When I called and asked if there was anyway I could get the bundled price shown by equipment pre-purchase, etc., I was informed that there was no way and the bundled price is really $49.99. This is misleading and deceptive advertising, leading a consumer to believe that $39.99 might buy something when in fact it buys nothing.

We signed up for direct tv with a two year contract in 2011. Our contract ended in 2013. We kept direct tv and we not under any contract then we moved to a new home and added one box in July 2014 and I just found out this month (march 2015) that because we added a box we are now obligated to direct tv for two years. They call it an upgrade and said whenever you upgrade it obligates you to a two year contract. I demanded any documentation they have of this contract and still have not received anything. I tried to cancel and they said we would have to pay $330 to cancel. I feel like this is a definite fraudulent act on their part to force me to stay with their company.

Thank you Carol I think I will wait afterwords when i made my payment on my own property land i can buy . After i get settled down i will be happy to setup my new entertainment room . Thank you again !2015 1st of April

Thank you for the information, never heard such type of terms and conditions. I too stream telugu tv channels on my smart tv using yupptv but never heard about contract like this. Glad that FTC has charges that service

I am a direct tv customer and signed up for a year with them and this month is my year, I called to let them know I would not be staying with them and they told me I was signed up for a two year agreement, when in fact I know what was said to me and that was you have a year contract with us and I stated ok, that's fine. Direct tv is miss leading their customers and when they have approached their year and want to leave we are told they will be charging us a 250.00 early consolation fee and with that they state we will go in to your checking account and get this. I truly feel they are using bullying tactics with their customers and this is not fair. something need to done about this type of bullying coming from direct tv, they should not be allowed to treat their customer like this and what is the money being used for, but to line their own pockets. Please stop this.

my 2 years is almost up.. My bill has never been the same month to month ... Cable sucks but not as bad a crook as direct TV... Hows dish ???

Dish is the same. you are on the phone for almost 2 hrs, you agreed to $56.99 for 2 yrs for 2 hoppers one hd & one not. you agreed to this with 3 different customer reps to get you set up. then you get home & read your email contract. of course it doesn't match to what you agreed upon. then you call Dish back & say wait this isn't what I agreed to, they said this is the package. I said , well since you have me recorded, I also recorded you , now listen to what I was told & agreed to. then your told that package does not exit. I said but this is what 3 of your customer service people said , they are trained by your company . you ran my credit, & was lied to. rep by dish said yes. we ran your credit & we lied to you because we can. I said so I am pretty much sol. they said yes we can do that to you. I said you are not even in my house & I haven't even gotten the first bill. so please cancel my order. now that is not nice & isn't right.

My bill was always different and I encourage everyone stay away from bundling with another company and DT what a mess.

May 1,2016 I received a call from Direct TV on March 28,2016. They were offering me SHOWTIME FOR Free for 30 days,I asked what was the catch and the guy I spoke to said No catch just make sure I cancel before the 30 day trial period. Well on April 22,2016 I called to cancel since I knew I would be out of the state the following week and did not want to forget. Well when I looked at my bill on line my payment went from $118 a month to $131.22 that was scheduled to come out.I called them and these turkeys said since I cancelled before the 30 day offer expired that they had to charge me a fee. Are you F....ing kidding me? I told them how can they charge me for a channel that was offered for free? Well supposedly they said they would credit my account before the money comes out of my account and my bill would still be $118,Yeah right on May 1,2016 I looked at what was to come out automatically of my account and to my surprise it went up to $142. Oh hell no, back on the phone I go and the woman I talked to could hardly speak English and could not understand what I was going through. Finally I told her to get me her super on the line and she refused to, well by now I'm getting ready to lose it and told her I was done trying to explain what has happened and hung up on her.I figured I would call back and talk with someone else, well just as I was going to call, my phone rings and guess who it is, yup it's her calling me back and saying she finally got what I told her and that all what was going to come out was $118. I said ok and got her name. Then she asked if there was anything else that she could help me with, I asked when was my billing cycle end date for the month,so she told me and asked why I wanted to know, I told her I was just curious and did not tell her that was when i am going to drop their lousy service after two and a half years.

On May 18,2016 Directv calls and says we would have a free month of starz for being a valued customer of 9 years! Just remember to cancel before 30 days are up to avoid charging. On May 31, 2016 I get the bill and am charged $13.99 plus a proration day charge of $.47 on my bill! I call and they say I will be charged a $10 cancellation fee if I cancel something that I did not ok in the first place! I was called by them. I was told 30 days free trial and then charged as if I'd called and asked them to add starz! Then told if I cancelled they would still find a way to get some money by making me (so called valued customer of 9 years) pay a $10 cancellation fee! Finally I got on social media and they did remedy it but beware do not accept any free trials! I can't stand AT&T and since they took over dtv has went downhill. I got away from them when they took over my cell service I loved and had nothing but problems post takeover. Got land line thru bell south no problems then AT&T takes over and nothing but problems so I disconnect. Now the same with Directv!!

I've had nothing but grief since I added directv. For the first 3 months I spent arguing with their people. Then I was having trouble with the picture being all screwy just to be told I'd have to pay x amount of dollars so they can fix the problem that was with the satellite that was outside. It goes on and on. As soon as I can find a company that truly respects and has their customers come first and foremost I'm moving my service to them. Directv charges you for something you for something you don't want. I'm disgusted with these companies. I looked into cable and they're just as high. Anyone have the scoop on a decent provider I'd like very much to hear about it.

I signed up with direct tv, (before AT&T ). Was supposed to get bundle deal internet, phone and cable t.v.
Price quoted was about same as Comcast bundle. They came and hooked up t.v., packed up to go. I asked about internet and phone, was told to call their "partner company" for installation. The partner company wanted to charge 70.00 MORE A MONTH!
The cable package tier I chose was from a brochure dated with the same month of installation, but the channels listed had many MOVED TO A HIGHER TIER, (and cost more).
My 2 year contract (which they NEVER HONORED with the services I signed for) has just ended. I STILL HAVE NO HOME PHONE OR INTERNET!
Anytime you talk to a person from the company you are talking to someone in a forein country! (The MAIN REASON I LEFT COMCAST!)

I called after my 90 day free HBO showtime was up to cancel. Checked several days later and my channels we disabled. Great, no I called 6 months later to add HBO and was told I never cancelled! Checked my bills and saw the had been charging me that entire time. I cancelled my contract that they failed when they put back the service without my permission. I want my fees back.

Has anyone had Directv steal over $600 from their debit card? Months after leaving their services? I have.

If a business took money without your permission, contact your bank. You can also report to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

I would like to know if my local channels are free why does dish network get to charge me for them?

They love to sneak the NFL package on your bill, then try to argue that you authorized it, when you did not, and then tell you that it is too late. They deserve to be sued.

DirecTV promotion/discounts call numbers of time to buy a promotion package, $200.00 with an Ebay card And get DirecTV for $40.00 a month for 2years. DirecTV is link with AT&T, I brought the package and They bill me $109. I have call several numbers to AT&T, DirecTV, and CenturvLink. Directv sold me this package from this #888-441-0877 Ext1

Thanks for sharing it with the people .

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