Poor Business Practice
Due to two deaths in the family within two weeks of one another, and my own health issues, our bills have been falling behind. When DirecTV notified us via email that they were disconnecting our services, we decided not to stop it, and awaited their equipment return kit. Unfortunately, it appears that we didn't return their equipment quickly enough.
Yesterday, upon checking to see if we would have enough money to pay for the final funeral service charges, we learned that DirecTV, had withdrawn over $300.00, leaving our account completely empty. Thankfully, our family helped us get some money together to deposit so that we could pay the funeral parlor.
After depositing the money, I called DirecTV to ask why they believed they could take money without permission. I was referred several times to "section 5(e)" of my customer agreement, which I've listed that below. Pay particular attention to the print in all caps (which I did, because I really don't think they would have).
The first representative told me that I signed a contract that gave them permission to do what they did. She also threatened to hang up on me if I didn't quit "cussing" (i started out fairly calm, and only began "cussing" when she refused several times to say much more than continually referring me to the customer service agreement). I requested a supervisor.
He didn't do much more in answering things like when I could expect my refund, and continued referring me to section 5(e) of the service agreement, interrupting me several times to do so. Eventually he transferred me to a department which would help me further.
A very nice representative answered and informed me that I was transferred to the wrong department, but was very informative as to the process of the refund (seems they can take money from your bank account, but not give it back),that no more money would be taken from the account, and a check would be mailed once the returned equipment was received by them.
Today, on a hunch, I checked our bank balance and found that an additional $145.00 was taken out by DirecTV, that the check we wrote for the funeral charges had been declined by the bank, and that the bank had charged us a returned check fee.
While I embarrassingly called the funeral director to apologize, my wife called DirecTV. They told her that the additional money was taken to pay the final balance on the account, and of course, apologized for any inconvenience this may have caused.
To be fair, DirecTV had no way of knowing of our problems these past few months, nor would we expect any special treatment because of them. However, I can assure you that at no time did we ever agree to allow them to withdraw funds from our account without our permission, nor did we ever sign, or accept any kind of contract, despite what they may believe.
My advice is this: make sure you know everything about how your credit or debit card information is or may be used, and don't always believe what you're told by customer service.
The following is an excerpt from the June 2014 DirecTV customer service agreement. I think the last line of the paragraph is perhaps the most disturbing.
5(E) payment upon cancellation. You acknowledge that you have provided your credit or debit card account information to us. You understand that you will incur fees and charges as a result of your receipt and use of service and/or receiving equipment, and may incur early cancellation fees and/or equipment non-return fees (as specified in any programming or other service commitment agreement you entered into in connection with obtaining receiving equipment). By giving us your credit or debit card account information at any time, you authorize us to apply this method of payment, in accordance with applicable law, to satisfy any and all amounts due upon cancellation. You also acknowledge and agree that you are required to maintain current credit or debit card information with us and agree to notify us whenever there is a change in such information, such as a change in the card number or the expiration date and additionally, that DirecTV may obtain such updated information through payment card networks, card issuers or other third party sources.