CBS News said it has uncovered more than 4,000 consumer complaints against AT&T and its DirecTV satellite unit related to overcharging and broken promotional promises over the past two years.
The damning report includes interviews with two AT&T customers, who said they are being charged roughly twice as much as their promotional offer promised on bundled services.
"I keep getting bills for $79.49 and my contract says I was only going to pay $24.99 for two years,” one Florida customer is quoted as saying.
CBS News indicates no attempt to reach out to AT&T reps.
AT&T released the following statement to FierceCable: "Like other companies, we frequently introduce promotions to provide our customers with the best services and products at the best price. These special offers vary in terms of pricing and duration. If a customer signs up for one of these offers, we fully honor the terms through the promotion's completion. Customers who enrolled in one of our promotional offers and believe they did not receive the full benefits should contact customer service."
CBS spoke to a consumer lawyer, who noted that DirecTV’s contracts require customers to use AT&T-subsidized arbitration processes in the event of a dispute.
“There’s nothing they’re going to be able to do for you,” said lawyer Paul Bland.
Although it’s not necessarily a balanced report, it certainly isn’t the first to accuse AT&T and DirecTV of shady business practices.
In August of last year, AT&T disputed a FierceCable report about a nationally dispersed rash of complaints and lawsuits filed by small business owners, who claim they were duped by DirecTV sales reps into signing up for residential services, only to be coerced into settlements for violating commercial services rules.
A Garden Grove, Calif., hair salon owner filed a class-action suit against AT&T and New York’s Lonstein Law Office. Doneyda Perez claimed that DirecTV sales reps approached her office unsolicited in 2014 and installed residential satellite TV service without informing her she wasn’t getting commercial service.
Perez said a month later, she received a threatening letter from Lonstein, demanding a settlement for improperly using a residential service in a commercial operation.
Perez’s suit is only the latest complaint against these defendants, which date back to at least 2013 when the Dallas Morning News reported on a Richardson, Texas, attorney, Susan Elizabeth Wright, who purportedly found a pattern of alleged shakedowns of small-business owners by DirecTV and Lonstein.
In fact, Wright reported “hundreds” of complaints about DirecTV and Lonstein from all over the country.
In defending the owner of a local diner against the operator and law firm, Wright noted that the installer even admitted the owner wasn’t informed he wasn’t getting a commercial service.
“This is a matter of basic fairness for all of our customers,” AT&T said to FierceCable in a statement. “Businesses that are not paying commercial rates for programming are taking unfair advantage of neighboring businesses that do. We are confident these claims will be rejected.”