I don’t write a lot on my blog about issues with companies, service providers, and otherwise, but yesterday my wife and I discovered something which I wanted to make people aware of as I don’t want you good people to fall into the same trap.

We have cable TV provided by DirecTV. We saw what seemed like a pretty decent deal in CostCo one day and decided to sign up. While the quality of the service is generally pretty good, there were a few surprises in there when we started using it.

A few of the services we were expecting that were sold to use by the rep at CostCo were not as he described, but after some frustration we figured, hey, we will keep going with them as they seem to provide a generally decent cable.

Yesterday the sound stopped working on our TV. Being of the geeky persuasion, it didn’t take long for me to have narrowed the issue down to the DirecTV box. I tested the TV, surround sound, cabling, networking to the box, and identified that there was no sound on either the live feed or DVRed programmes. We also had an issue with the DirectTV box in the bedroom which could no longer play DVR content from downstairs. I had reset the box multiple times, power cycled it, re-authorized it via the site and was confident we would need a service engineer to come our and resolve the issue.

I called DirecTV and they did some checks on the box. They triggered a remote diagnostic check and an error came up indicating that there was an issue with satellite dish alignment.

After these checks, it was clearly an issue with the DirecTV service/hardware.

I was then informed me that we would need to pay $49 to have an engineer come out to resolve the service issue.

Let me just take a second to re-iterate this…we were paying a monthly fee for DirecTV service using the rented equipment that they provide, their service was no longer working as expected, we had clearly defined it as a DirecTV service/hardware problem, yet we had to pay $49 for the issue to be resolved.

Naturally I was pretty unhappy about this. The manager who I escalated this to informed me that this was in the contract. She went on to say that DirecTV like to be upfront about their service provision and what is involved in the contract. Well, we were never informed about this, in the same way the other parts of the service I mentioned earlier were not communicated clearly to us either.

Now, I am not saying that Erica and I are geniuses, but I do think we are smart enough to understand the nature of a service offering, what is provided, how much it costs, ask about hidden fees, and be able to choose a service wisely. DirecTV were not clear about this.

It turns out that when you get your new DirecTV service installed they provide a 90-day warranty and then you are on your own. What happens after 90 days? Well, it turns out you need to have a “protection plan“.

Call me a cynic, but when a subscribe to a service, be it cable, electric, gas, water, or anything else, I don’t expect to have to take out a protection plan when the provider fails to provide that service to me. What is to stop DirecTV compromising our service to trigger future service calls at $49 a shot? I am not saying this is what happened here, but if they took responsibility for resolving their own service issues, I would know they would not do things such as that as the costs would be incurred to them, not their customers.

Now, if I screw something up and waste their time, such as if they come out to fix an issue that was unrelated to DirectTV, that is a different matter, but when the issue is clearly as part of their service provision, I think it is unacceptable to charge customers for you to resolve your own service issues.

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