February 8, 2011 in Business

DirecTV offers refunds for viewers rejoining the service

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Customers of DirecTV who paid hundreds of dollars to terminate their contracts are being given full refunds if they rejoin, the company announced recently.

The action follows a recent ceasefire announced by DirecTV and Spokane TV station KAYU, a Fox Network affiliate. Since Jan. 1, Fox shows have been pulled off the air for regional customers of DirecTV. If the parties resolve a dispute over how much DirecTV will pay KAYU’s parent firm, the shows will resume on the satellite service.

As the blackout carried on through January, some DirecTV subscribers chose to terminate their contracts. Most had to pay an early termination fee, some costing hundreds of dollars.

Robert Mercer, a spokesman for DirecTV, said the company now is waiving fees or giving full credit to customers who quit but have chosen to rejoin as subscribers.

Mercer said customers who rejoin also don’t have to start a new two-year contract. “If they left with a 12-month commitment and come back, we would credit that back and they would have a 12-month commitment remaining,” Mercer said in an e-mail.

He declined to say how many people left the satellite company in the past two months or the number refunded termination fees.

Two competitors, Dish Network and Comcast Corp., both have far more subscribers in the Spokane TV market than DirecTV. As of fall 2009, national research company MediaBiz said Dish Network had 102,000 subscribers, Comcast had roughly 100,000 and DirecTV had 69,000. A large number of other TV households rely on over-the-air signals.

In December, DirecTV settled a lawsuit with a number of states, including Washington, over alleged marketing and pricing policies. The settlement involved a $1 million payment to Washington’s attorney general’s office.

The lawsuit, initiated by Attorney General Rob McKenna, accused the California company of “unconscionable” sales practices and for not fully disclosing terms and fees involved in cancelling service.

DirecTV did not acknowledge wrongdoing in reaching the settlement.


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