Free TV – but what’s the catch?

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.


Tagged with: advertising, free trial
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I signed up for one of their "free trials" for a channel package and marked my calendar. I called that date to cancel and only received a partial credit because it was in the middle of the billing cycle. The free trials to not align with the billing cycles so it will never be "free".

Everyone (not just you) needs to know that there's no reason to mark your calendar to cancel sometime near the end of the deal. Call back the next day and cancel (give it a day for their systems to be caught up).

The agreement is for X days of free whatever. Canceling early doesn't negate that agreement. There's no advantage to you for waiting to cancel. There's always an advantage for the company.

It's a game. They are out for themselves and we, the consumer, are out for ourselves. But they've played it so long they are the experts. I've encountered the first-year discounted offer but it clearly was with the understanding (and the store rep made sure I understood) that it would be higher the 2nd year. The free channels, NFL SUnday ticket, etc. all have to be accounted for. I'd just say listen, listen, listen and read the things they ask you to sign. It's all there......somewhere :)

This is the biggest rip off Co. I have been involved in in my life. They lie to you about everything. I never signed any agreement because the installer tore up our TV cabinet ripping out the old box and cords . He was so rude and careless. He left trash all over the house. When he gave me something to sign when he was done I refused ! He then called his supervisor. Then a little while later he tried to hand me another r thing to sign and I also refused to sign that one too. He again called his supervisor. I told him to hit the road and take all his trash with him. It was the worst service I have ever had from any Co.

IF YOU LOOK AT YOUR ORDER IT GIVES DETAILS BEFORE YOU HAVE SERVICE INSTALLED with complete information and you can't just pick the parts you want to see.

My order only asked that someone be there that is over 18.

Happened to me

Great. Now how about putting an end to a 35 year FRAUD called Herbalife?

So much for the gullible Rob Lowes out there!

Please also add to the charges that Directv arbitrarily increase programming package price during the promotion period, and equipment lease charge wherein the terms and condition do not specify that they can do so.


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