A satellite TV subscription is one of the best ways to enjoy live television — and it’s also often more affordable than cutting the cord. Unfortunately, many pay-TV providers have a history of hidden fees, confusing billing statements, and random additional costs. To help you sort out your TV bill, this article will answer some pressing questions about unexpected charges from DIRECTV®.
What Are DIRECTV’s Hidden Costs?
DIRECTV, like most pay-TV providers, advertises low monthly costs as well as specials and package deals to attract new customers. DIRECTV’s new 2-year price guarantee includes many of the previously hidden fees for equipment and other services. These advertised rates, however, do not necessarily disclose the total costs of service — late fees and early termination fees, for example, will still apply on top of your regular monthly fee.
While DIRECTV denies any wrongdoing, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued DIRECTV over what it calls deceptive advertising, specifically regarding unclear package contract terms and price increases. In many cases, DIRECTV’s advertisements technically did mention these hidden costs — but the disclosures were often covered up by pictures or text or written in such fine print that they were difficult for customers to clearly see and understand.
Before — not after — signing up for any TV package with any provider, carefully review the advertised rates as well as the terms and conditions for additional taxes and fees you may be subject to. Keep in mind that pricing and programming are subject to change at any time.
Activation and Installation Fees: In addition to a basic account activation fee — which may cost up to $100 — customers may be charged custom installation fees not covered by the free standard professional installation.
Equipment Fees: Equipment fees are notoriously hard to decipher. DVRs and other equipment may include an initial cost, as well as a monthly rental fee and advanced service fees. In addition, DIRECTV requires you to activate the equipment you receive — or you may be charged up to $150 for any receiver not activated within 30 days. And if you do not return your equipment after cancelling your subscription, you may be charged up to $135, depending on the piece of equipment.
Package Price Increases: In the suit against DIRECTV, the FTC claims that DIRECTV advertised a reduced price 12-month satellite package, but failed to disclose that the package included a two-year contract. After the initial 12 months, the cost of the package increased by up to $45 per month during the second year. Neither the two-year contract nor the price increase were clearly disclosed to customers.
Early Cancellation Fees: If you aren’t happy with your DIRECTV service, you have 24 hours to cancel your subscription. After that, you’re subject to an early cancellation fee. The FTC also claims that DIRECTV did not clearly disclose these early cancellation fees — up to $480, depending on the amount of time left on your contract. You may also be charged a $15 deactivation fee on top of your cancellation fee.
Premium Channel Fees: Premium channels cost extra — even if they don’t at first — so be wary of deals touting free channels. If you sign up for DIRECTV’s promotion for three free months of premium channels like HBO® and SHOWTIME®, for example, you’ll automatically be enrolled in the program at the end of the promotional period and charged for continued service — another point the FTC claims that DIRECTV failed to disclose. These services cost around $50 a month in addition to your regular DIRECTV package price. Similarly, if you sign up for NFL SUNDAY TICKET “at no extra charge,” you will be charged full price — about $240 — at the start of the following season unless you actively cancel before the season begins.
Other Fees: If it has anything to do with your DIRECTV account, assume it can and will have a fee associated with it. Some fees, like late payment fees, are relatively standard and expected. Others are less obvious, like a deactivation fee — on top of any applicable cancellation fees — or a change of service fee if you switch to a lower-priced package. And other fees are downright unexpected, like a phone payment fee if you pay your bill over the telephone (with help from an agent), an order assistance fee for ordering Pay Per View (again with help from an agent), and a duplicate statement fee to get another copy of your own billing statement.
How Do I Avoid DIRECTV’s Hidden Fees?
To get the most out of your TV subscription, do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line. Doing thorough research now to understand the terms and conditions of your TV packages and services can help save you from unexpected fees and costs later.
But it’s not all bad. DIRECTV actually has an excellent customer service record. In fact, it was named number one among cable and satellite providers on the American Customer Satisfaction Index for 14 years in a row and is still among the top three. New and existing customers may be able to negotiate reduced or waived fees. If you don’t understand an item on your bill, talk to a customer service representative for help.
Start your due diligence now by discovering the TV providers available in your area.
*Costs and contracts are subject to change. Packages and prices may not be available in all areas.