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Long Beach California, 90815-0679
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Feature Stories

Donahue Decries DIRECTV Problems

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 8

By Steve Propes

By Steve Propes

At age 87, going on 88, Long Beach resident John Donahue is best known as the “skateboarding candidate” who ran for Congress from Long Beach under the Peace and Freedom Party banner in 1970 and 1972.

Now, Donahue has seemingly taken up a new cause, a DIRECTV subscription which went south when an introductory offer kicked in to an obligation he found was well outside of his budget.
According to Donahue, “I was at the Cajun Festival” and signed up at a DIRECTV table.

Three installers came to Donahue’s rented house and installed the dish and hooked up his set. “The original agreement was for $67.99,” said Donahue. “They hook you in, give you three months free HBO and packages, eventually it went to $130, almost double.”
Service began on August 5, 2011. “I was paying through my debit card,” said Donahue. Then things changed. After about “probably six months I got to the point, there’s a lot of money where I couldn’t pay the bill, so I cancelled it.” Donahue stopped paying.

DIRECTV acknowledges three price increases, two which were after introductory periods had lapsed, which put the bill at $157.57 shortly after Donahue made his last payment in late October 2012.

“They sent me some four boxes, wanted me to put stuff, receivers, one satellite dish in the boxes and I was supposed to send it back. We had no transportation. Why couldn’t they come and pick it up? They didn’t say anything.

“I was paying the bill, my name was also on the contract. I never signed anything, but was treated like a co-signer. My roommate agreed to put it in his name.

“Since we didn’t send the stuff in, they charged it out on my account, almost the entire Social Security, two charges, one for the equipment, about $650 and a separate item for $160 for early cancellation,” referring to the two year contract.

As Donahue’s income is limited to Social Security, he stated, “They are claiming that if I’m using my card, I am allowing them to take money out of my card. Social Security told the Farmer’s & Merchants Bank they could not take out the money. The bank said what they were doing seemed to be okay. Two guys at the bank told me they had problems with these people too.”

“In regards to his income,” said the DIRECTV spokesperson, “DIRECTV never touched his bank account. Per the DIRECTV customer agreement, the customer’s credit card was charged the full balance due.” As it was a debit card, the same rule applied.

After his account was debited, Donahue took action. “I got in touch with them, we did send the stuff back. They credited the amount back.” However, Donahue was still out the cancellation fee.

As Donahue’s complaints centered on pricing and financial penalties, a DIRECTV spokesperson was asked if the local sales force takes note of a person’s limited income. “There are some pro-cedures in place when signing up for accounts. Usually we make sure you don’t have outstanding accounts. We do run credit checks to find if it’s a risk for a customer who isn’t going to make payments. We’ll do our best to make sure we’re in that range.”

DIRECTV acknowledged some “complexes and apartment owners don’t want dishes on their buildings, so the owners must give consent.” However, Donahue stated his landlord wasn’t made aware of the dish and still doesn’t know about it. Donahue’s bill apparently increased because he did not cancel the premium channels. “I called them over half a dozen times, telling them to cut out this stuff. The way they set it up, to get HBO, you have to get other channels.”

“He could have kept HBO. All he needed to do was call and discuss it,” said the spokesperson. “They even have separate offers for HBO, like five dollars off HBO for six months.”

After inquiries about the case and the fact of Donahue’s limited income, the DIRECTV spokesperson offered to refund and did refund the early cancellation fee.

Donahue countered, “my question is, I’m on limited income, don’t have transportation, and they want me to mail the equipment back. I see DIRECTV trucks all over the neighborhood all the time. Why can’t they send one of these trucks to take back the equipment?”
“We send out recovery kits to the house at no charge. They don’t have to pay for shipment. All they have to do is place the equipment in the box and call to schedule a pickup.”

Undaunted by this attempt at accommodating some of his needs, Donahue is following through by complaining to the feds. “I got forms from a congressman and I’m filling them out right now.”