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Category: Consumer Protection Law
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Experience:  I've worked for a large company for 8 years, and regularly deal with the terms under which goods and services are provided.
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How to avoid paying Direct TV early termination fee?

Resolved Question:

Any way to get out of paying early termination fee for DirecTv... I have to move due to my job and not able to have a " dish" where moving too....
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  CounselorJim replied 2 years ago.

This issue can go either way. DirecTV's contract has been enforced many times, and customers have had to pay the early termination fee in many cases. However, DirecTV has also had to refund $13 million worth of charges to customers when it violated rules as shown here:
http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=7845455

While the $13 M case has passed, I wanted to show you that DirecTV has had issues with this before.

You would need grounds, or a reason, why you shouldn't be paying the fee. The idea that you're moving to a particular condo area that doesn't allow dishes won't really help you. DirecTV would say that you knew that you had this deal in place and could have always chosen a different home, which is true, even though it would be silly to consider your DirecTV contract when selecting a home.

Grounds for possibly objecting to the fee would include the following, and maybe one of these fits your situation:

Moving for military relocation

An oral agreement was formed over-the-phone that has a charge of over $500 or a term of greater than one year must be in writing, as shown here:
http://law.onecle.com/north-carolina/25-uniform-commercial-code/25-2-201.html

"I didn't agree to this contract," and "don't remember signing anything," aren't such terrible arguments. It will make DirecTV have to show the signed agreement to you, which may or may not be easy for them to do, and maybe they don't have it (DirecTV is a big company and big companies are thought of as always having their paperwork in order, but they make mistakes too).

Another argument is that you weren't aware of the early termination fee. The DirecTV website has a lot of information on this page, for instance, but the early termination fee language is not on here, and a person would have to click somewhere else to see the agreement. The material s you were looking at when ordering may have been similar.

Other arguments are that you weren't receiving what was listed as the services included in the package, that the service malfunctioned often and customer support was inadequate (you would have to have a call history where you complained about the service multiple times with DirecTV for this one to be effective, DirecTV can check that in a minute, another would be that the agreement you signed wasn't clear, and didn't make the circumstance surrounding the early termination fee clear, or that you would have to pay it if you were moving (if that might be the case), even arguably.

I would pick an argument that might fit your situation, and type up a paragraph of a complaint and then file consumer complaints with the FCC (which regulates the video on a federal level) and the North Carolina Attorney General. these complaints can be done online in just a few minutes at these sites:
http://www.fcc.gov/complaints
http://www.ncdoj.gov/complaint.aspx

The FCC and NC Attorney General will forward these complaints to DirecTV and instruct the company to either resolve the issue with you or justify the company's position. the danger of writing a letter justifying the company's position, is that opens the door for the Attorney General to investigate the issue further. The last time the NC Attorney General looked at DirecTV's business practices, it fined DirecTV $13 million. Having been burned before, this may make it more likely that you'll get a positive response from DirecTV on your complaint.

There is no magic statute to point to that says that a company cannot hold a customer to a 2-year service agreement, companies and consumers can do that. However, the way the services are provided and charges made must be in accordance with the marketing terms that induced you to order service and the subscriber agreement that you agreed to upon installation. If any of these terms is unclear, or you can show you didn't effectively agree to them, then you would have a stronger position.

If you did get a response to your FCC or Attorney General complaint that doesn't satisfy you, you can follow up with the Attorney General and FCC stating that the response wasn't satisfactory, or can take the matter to small claims court. More info about small claims court is located here:
http://www.legalaidnc.org/public/Learn/publications/Small_Claims_Court/default.aspx

To recap, there are many grounds on which to make a complaint that may be effective, you can include the fact that you were moving as well but may need to show a bit of a misunderstanding between the parties as well. Raising the complaint with FCC and Attorney General may be helpful in getting a refund, and if not you could take the matter to court for a breach of contract.

If you need additional information or have any other questions, please let me know.

I've worked for a cable TV company for about 10 years, and have seen a couple thousand FCC and Attorney General complaints. Small claims court is also an option.

Again, there is nothing illegal about DirecTV's agreement. People are free to enter contracts, but DirecTV is unlikely to appear in small claims court to dispute the matter and may resolve it in the face of an attorney general complaint. As for talking to the representatives in customer service, these agents are often to ld to work off of a set of scripts and may lack the authority needed to make a decision in your favor to give you the credit and I wouldn't recommend continuing to call them on an issue like this.

CounselorJim, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 360
Experience: I've worked for a large company for 8 years, and regularly deal with the terms under which goods and services are provided.
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