So I recently signed up for AT&T and DirecTV in order to take advantage of a few deals that would’ve essentially made DirecTV free. Despite being a cordcutter, it was a decent idea at the time.
I quickly sobered up after spending two months dealing with the ridiculously bad customer service between the companies that advertise themselves as being a family but don’t act like much of one.
Because of this, I decided to cancel my service. Of course, DirecTV tried to hold me to the contract and warned me of an early termination fee of over $400. Having trolled many a contract in my life, I gladly accepted their challenge and set a goal to break the contract for free. Here’s what I learned:
Being Overcharged and Bounced Around
I spent some time working in the trenches of call centers in my teens and early 20s. I’m familiar with how horrific working conditions can be in these places and how negative the atmosphere often is. This is why I typically avoid wasting any time calling a company’s customer service.
However, it was necessary to continue calling both AT&T and DirecTV in order to get the advertised deal you would think would be easy to do in their systems. I called both companies a total of 4 times before finally actually getting the unlimited data plan added to my account. Each prior call I was told I’d have it (even was told in the store that’s what would happen), but in reality, none of these people followed through.
When I finally did get the plan, I had already been overcharged for two months of service. On top of this, I was told I couldn’t take advantage of the combined billing and accompanying discount because of the discount already added on my plan. This didn’t sit well with me.
I was completely polite with the customer service reps and even asked whether I’d be credited for the time I was overcharged, but it became clear AT&T only focuses on specific stats and the reps weren’t eager to refund me money I was rightfully due. Instead they acted as though it was my mistake to listen to the misinformation they gave out.
Being a whistleblower, I already knew how to raise the alarms and put the pressure on these companies who feel they can bully customers, so I wasted no time involving the government to strong arm these companies that feel they can strong arm me.
I also made sure to blast them on social media and every possible review site.
Involving the BBB and FCC
The basic idea is that neither DirecTV nor AT&T has their shit together, but they certainly don’t want the public to know it. Large corporations like this often spend a lot of time, money, and resources projecting the perfect image online in order to trick most people into signing up.
Fortunately, companies like the Better Business Bureau and Federal Communications Commission allow you to file complaints in the event you’re overcharged or have facts misrepresented to you, both of which were the case here. While some may tell you a contract is always binding, it’s quite simple to take a business to task for misrepresenting a contract.
I highly recommend involving companies like the BBB and FCC (or whatever the appropriate government regulator is) in any disputes with a corporation. This forces the company to respond, and you’ll get their “office of the president” instead of a normal customer service rep. The “office of the president” at any company is obviously not connecting you to anyone in the actual c-suite of a company. Instead, you get agents specially trained in handling escalated matters.
Initially AT&T’s Executive Response team was unwilling to waver on anything, but after I continued upping the pressure, she eventually conceded that I was due a refund for being overcharged on my wireless bill and I was issued a refund:
Although given a refund from AT&T, even the “office of the president” was unable to do anything about DirecTV. Instead, she called everything valid and went so far as to close my case with the BBB and FCC, requiring me to reopen cases against DirecTV instead of AT&T, since, even though they’re subsidiaries of the same company, they operate separately in every aspect.
So, I had to start dealing with DirecTV’s “office of the president,” who also initially refused to budge on the early termination fee, despite my explanation that I would not be paying it.
However, once I made it clear that there was no way the complaints with either consumer agency would be removed until they resolved my issue satisfactorily, DirecTV also caved and waived the early termination fee.
Consumer Have Rights
This blog is not meant to brag but rather to illustrate that you, as an American citizen, do not need to allow your life to be ruled by contracts. There is always a way around them.
I have no doubt some people will read this and think I’m shirking responsibilities or come up with some ridiculous reason why you should fulfill every contract, but that’s just not how the world works. People in power use the working class as resources and pawns, but we have more power than them. This company doesn’t care about me, and there’s no reason for me to care about them. Their in-store and phone reps directly lied to me on multiple occasions and misrepresented facts in order to take my money.
I work hard for my money, and I don’t appreciate dishonest business. I didn’t start the inevitable class-action lawsuit against these companies – I simply exercised my right to walk away from a bad deal.
Don’t ever allow these companies to tell you no and make you feel as though they have power over you or can force you to pay for misrepresented services. Defend every penny you earn and make sure to only give money to those who earn it.
AT&T and DirecTV are lying assholes. Unfortunately living in a van, AT&T is still a useful service, but DirecTV is part of a dying industry that provides no real value. Because of this, they needed to be terminated. If you ever need to terminate your contracts with either of these companies, make sure to play hardball and do not compromise. You don’t owe them anything.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, The Street, and Hardcore Droid.