Understand your Contract when Choosing a Satellite Providerby Nick LaFleur on Sep. 12, 2011, under alert, Life, phishing, scam, Tips
In 2009 and 2010, satellite TV providers ranked fourth amongst all industries generating complaints to Better Business Bureau. So far in 2011, they’ve moved up to third.
Two companies dominate the satellite TV industry and account for the majority of complaints – over 50,000 in the past three years. The number of complaints is of some concern, but has to be weighed against a combined customer base of more than 30 million people. Of greater concern is the nature of the complaints, including that the companies fail to adequately disclose all limitations, conditions and penalties that may apply to offers. One of the companies has a D+ grade with the BBB in the city where it’s headquartered and the other has a C+.
Common consumer complaints include:
- Early termination fees that can run into the hundreds of dollars.
- Higher pricing than expected after introductory offers expire.
- Promotional rebates and gift cards that are never received or were difficult to redeem.
- Being charged for a service the customer thought was free or didn’t order, such as a pay-per-view movie.
- Reception, service and repair problems.
- Being billed for receivers after they were returned to the company.
- Contracts being extended without the consumers’ knowledge when services were upgraded.
Regulators have also landed on the companies for alleged deceptive marketing practices. One company settled with 49 state Attorneys General over allegations that it “…engaged in practices that misled customers about how much they would be required to pay and what kind of programming they could expect. The investigation established that the company extended contracts without customers’ knowledge when its representatives asked customers to sign what appeared to be service documents. Customers later learned that their signatures had extended their contacts for another two years. The investigation also determined that the company failed to deliver promised channels.”
The companies respond to many complaints by citing provisions in their contracts. Consumers should read satellite provider contracts carefully to avoid unexpected charges and other problems.
BBB of Southern Arizona offers this advice to avoid problems with satellite TV service:
- Get everything in writing. Don’t rely on oral representations from a salesman, installer or customer service representative. You may be speaking to a third party retailer and its verbal promises may not show up in the final customer agreement with the satellite provider itself.
- Read the terms and conditions carefully. Pay close attention to the terms on introductory offers, equipment costs and the cancellation policy.
- Check every bill closely. The sooner you spot inaccuracies in billing, the better. Even if you have your account set up to automatically charge your credit card or debit your checking account, always review your monthly bill closely for any new or unusual charges.
- Mark your calendar with important dates such as when you need to cancel introductory promotions for premium channels or when you need to notify the provider that you don’t want to renew your contract.
These companies respond to complaints filed with BBB and often resolve them to the customer’s satisfaction.