Better Business Bureau Spotlights Satellite Service Complaints

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) shined a spotlight on consumer complaints about satellite TV service Tuesday.
"In the past three years, more than 53,000 customers have
complained to the Better Business Bureau about satellite TV providers,
with 39,000 of those complaints filed against DirecTV and 13,000 filed
against Dish Network," the

BBB said in a release, advising consumers to read their contracts closely before signing up.

Given that DirecTV has 18 million subs and DISH 14 million, that works out to fewer than one complaint per

thousand customers per year for DirecTV and one per 3,000
customers for DISH. But that still makes them "one of the most
complained-about industries," said a BBB spokesperson in promoting the

The BBB said many of the complaints were about early
termination fees (BB said the complaints were about paying more than
$600 to cancel), as well as service issues, upgrades that extended
contract periods, and low-cost introductory offers that
either didn't come through as advertised or morphed into regular prices
higher than the cusomer was expecting.

DirecTV took issue with the stats and the
characterization; DISH was looking at the bright side, competitively
speaking, while acknowledging it had some work to do. 

"That's wrong," said DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer
about the $600-plus in cancellation fees. "[I]t's $480 maximum and
that's prorated depending on when the customer cancels. Of the tens of
thousands of transactions that our agents and installers
handle each week, errors or miscommunications do occur from time to
time, but we believe that in the overwhelming majority of these
transactions, the proper disclosure process is scrupulously followed and
each customer is fully informed of the terms and conditions
of their agreement."

"While we are pleased that consumers are more satisfied
with our service compared to the competition," DISH said in a statement,
"we know there is always room for improvement. Customers are our number
one priority, and every day we strive to
make each interaction with them a positive experience. We appreciate
the need to address customer concerns in an effective and timely manner
and we will continue to work with the BBB to respond to and resolve
these issues as quickly as possible."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.