Reps for DirecTV parent AT&T said confusion over the amount of surcharges paid by customers for regional sports networks stems from its own website giving out bad data.
"The website has inaccurate information and we are looking into it. The website has been temporarily taken down until a fix is in place. We apologize for the inaccurate information.”
The DirecTV online tool in question lets customers punch in their ZIP code to determine how much they pay each month in RSN surcharges. Last week, The Consumerist caused a stir, reporting on complaints from some DirecTV customers that they were paying, in some cases, dramatically more than other customers living just blocks away, even though they were receiving the exact same programming packages.
In Arizona, The Consumerist reported that DirecTV customers might be charged $0, $2.47, $5.83 and $7.29 extra for regional sports channels, depending on which ZIP code they have.
At press time, FierceCable returned to the DirecTV website, which was still operational. Punching in the Scottsdale ZIP code of 85254 turned up a charge of $7.29 a month. The next ZIP code south, 85253 revealed a price point of $5.53 a month. The bordering ZIP code east, owes no RSN fee at all, according to the DirecTV tool.
For DirecTV, the scrutiny comes as most top pay-TV operators are getting raised eyebrows for programming surcharges, which are not only plied to regional sports networks, but also to broadcast channels for retrans fees.
Operators say the surcharges are necessary to keep up with rising program licensing costs. However, both Comcast and Charter Communications have recently been subject to class-action suits over the fees, with the plaintiffs accusing the operators of an overall lack of transparency.
Last summer, meanwhile, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), brought executives from the leading pay-TV companies to explain the surcharges to Congress.