A reader sent us a question through our Facebook page, and I found it interesting…
Do you have any advice for getting rid of DirecTV? my contract is not over for another 11 months.
Ah, the infamous DirectTV contract…
DirectTV binds customers to a contract when they sign up for service. Customers are then charged an early termination fee if they try to cancel their service before the term of the contract is up, which is usually one to two years. In all fairness, DirectTV is not the only company that does this. The majority of cable and satellite TV companies, as well as cell phone service providers, require customers to agree to contracts that require them to pay an early termination fee.
As this reader most likely found out, it can be very difficult to get out of a DirectTV contract without an early termination fee. Many have tried, and many have failed.
So, can you get out of a DirectTV Contract without an early termination fee?
My answer to this is, unfortunately, probably not. Legally, you agreed to the contract when started service, and you are therefore legally bound to abide by the terms of the contract, which includes paying a hefty early termination fee.
In this reader’s case, there are a few things she can do.
Pay the Early Termination Fee
The typical DirectTV early termination fee is $20 for every month left on the contract. In this case, the reader would have to pay $220 to cancel her DirectTV service with 11 months left on her contract.
This can be a hefty chunk of change to come up with for most people, though. However, depending on how much you’re paying per month for service, this might actually cost less in the long run.
If you’ve been a long-time customer with an account in good standing, you may be able to ask for the early termination fee to be waived. The actual wording on the DirectTV customer agreement states that you “… you MAY be subject to an early cancellation fee if you agreed to a programming agreement with DIRECTV and have failed to maintain the required programming package for the required period of time.”
I’ve heard rumors that some people have had luck in getting a DirectTV early termination fee waived or reduced by simply asking. Call customer service and explain your situation and why you believe that your early termination fee should be waived. If you’re polite and your account is in good standing, you might get lucky. Just don’t let anyone talk you into extending your contract by signing you up with a temporarily low-priced promotional service.
If you’re having trouble paying your monthly bill, you could reduce your bill by switching plans. Currently, the lowest priced plan that DirectTV has is the Family Plan, which is $29.95 per month for limited channels.
While this isn’t a good way to get rid of DirectTV completely, it may be the best way to ride out a contract. You may pay a little in the long run, but you won’t be socked with an outrageous early termination fee.
Suspend Your Account
You can suspend your DirectTV account from one to six months. This does not, however, get you out of the contract, and any remaining time left on the contract will still be valid after the suspension is lifted. For instance, if you have 6 months left on your contract and you suspend your account for 6 months, you’ll still be required to finish out the 6 months left on your contract after the suspension is lifted.
Suspending your DirectTV account, though, may be a good idea if you’re having temporary problems with money, such as an unexpected expense or recent layoff. You might also be able to save up enough money for the early termination fee during the length of your suspension. You’ll still have to pay the fee, but you’ll be able to save up for it instead of having to pay for it all at once.
Go to Court
Some former DirectTV customers have had luck suing the company and getting their early termination fees back. Sometimes company representatives don’t bother to show up, and sometimes customers are able to prove that they unknowingly entered into a contract, the contract language was not clear, or the service was substandard.
If you do decide to go to small claims court to recover an early termination fee, though, be prepared to lose your court costs as well as your early termination fee, since there’s a chance the judge may not rule in your favor. It might also be a good idea to talk to a lawyer specializing in these types of cases.
Switch Service Providers
Here’s where it gets interesting. The reader simply stated that she wanted to “get rid of DirectTV”, not necessarily get out of paying an early termination fee. If she simply did not like DirectTV service, then she may want to consider switching to a different service provider.
Some cable and satellite TV service providers might actually pay some or all of your early termination fee from a rival company when you switch. Not all companies do this, though, and you may have to ask around a bit before you find one that does. In this case, you’ll most likely be under contract with a new company – hopefully one that you like better.
The low introductory rates that most service providers dangle in front of customers can be very tempting. Beware of rate hikes when the introductory period ends, however. If this happens, you may be stuck with a ridiculously high bill and no way to get out of it without dropping an exorbitant amount of money on an early termination fee.
Also, it’s always a good idea to read any contract before you sign or verbally agree to it. Yes, it’s boring and confusing, but it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into. If you don’t understand something in a contract, such as when you’ll be charged an early termination fee or how much it will be, make sure you ask about it.