Problem Solver: DirecTV customer dishes on costly attempt to cancel

Longtime subscriber gets chilly reception after telling satellite provider he was moving

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DirecTV has been around for 17 years.

Bob Dagosto has been a customer for 13 of them.

It wasn't by choice that he ended the relationship. Over the summer, Dagosto and his wife put their Chicago three-flat up for sale and, miraculously, it sold.

Needing a place to live, the couple bought a coach house in a multiunit complex in Mount Prospect. The development has a contract with Comcast, so Dagosto called DirecTV and asked to cancel his service.

The call did not go well.

Because he still had 14 months left on his most recent two-year DirecTV contract, the satellite television company charged him a $20-per-month cancellation fee, for a total of $280.

Dagosto tried to argue, but the customer service agent said there was nothing she could do.

"I said, 'Don't you understand that I've been a customer for 13 years and I'm moving to a place that has Comcast only?'" Dagosto said. "She offered to hide the dish somewhere where they couldn't see it. I said, 'I can't do that, I'm the new kid on the block.'"

Dagosto argued some more, but the customer service agent wouldn't budge.

"She was just doing her job, but what I was trying to tell her is it just wasn't fair," he said. "I said, 'I don't believe it. This is the way you say thanks to a long-term customer?'"

A short time later, the $280 showed up on his monthly bill. He promptly emailed What's Your Problem?

He said he had recently moved into the three-flat from Vernon Hills, and, because of that move, DirecTV started a new two-year contract.

Dagosto said DirecTV holds all the cards because it has both his checking account and credit card numbers.

"They're going to get their money one way or another, and you have nothing you can say about it," he said.

Although technically he could keep DirecTV at his new house, he would also be charged for Comcast service through a deal negotiated by the housing development. Keeping DirecTV would meaning paying for cable twice.

"That makes no sense," he said.

Charging the cancellation fee is legal, Dagosto said, but he still felt it was unfair, given the circumstances.

"They treat you as a number, not as a customer," he said.

The Problem Solver called DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer on Friday.

The next day, a DirecTV customer service agent called Dagosto and agreed to waive the $280 cancellation fee.

Mercer said in an email that when customers move, they usually participate in DirecTV's Movers Connection program, which includes free installation at the new location.

"Under the program, in general, if it turns out there is no line of sight at the new address and the customer can't get service, all agreements are waived," Mercer said.

In such a circumstance, no cancellation fee is charged, he said.

"If the customer chooses not to participate in the Movers Connection program, the agreement is valid and early cancellation fees (if any) would apply," Mercer said.

He said Dagosto didn't technically qualify for a fee waiver, "but in the interest of good will for a longtime customer, we're waiving the fee."

Dagosto said he's happy to have the fee erased but thinks DirecTV should have been more understanding during earlier calls.

The customer service agent who called him Saturday was nice, Dagosto said.

"She said, 'We'd love to have you back in the future,'" he said. "I guess we'll see about that."

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