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Posted October 10, 2011

How To Beat DirecTV's Early Termination Fee

Depending on the contract you are stuck in, it can cost anywhere between $100 and $480 to cancel your DirecTV account early. On average, DirecTV charges about $20 per month remaining on your contract.

I have outlined the following steps for the benefit of anyone who has ever gotten screwed by DirecTV or any similar monopolistic company. These steps worked flawlessly for me with one exception. I did not do step one and had to wait for three weeks for a refund from DirecTV. Follow these steps.

Step 1: Cancel the credit/debit card you have on file with DirecTV. At the very least, cancel automatic payment on your account.

Although this is not absolutely necessary, you will likely deal with a lot more grief from DirecTV if you do not cancel the card. It is almost a guarantee they will still charge your card if everything goes according to plan. Read through the following steps and then decide for yourself if you should cancel your payment method.

Step 2: Finding "your new home or apartment"

This is the most important step in the whole process. This will make or break the success of your early cancellation attempt. You must find a new place that you will say you have moved into that does not have a suitable mounting position for the DirecTV satellite dish. You do not actually have to be the resident of this new house or building.

How to do this:

Things to know:

Step 3: Call DirecTV to let them know you are moving.

When you call DirecTV to let them know you are moving, they will ask for your new address. This will be the address you wrote down in step two. This address can be anywhere in the United States. Be sure to let them know in advance that your landlord/building manager does not allow satellites to be mounted on the roof or building in any way. The representative will mention your rights as an American citizen to open access to satellite programming and try and make the manager or landlord seem like the enemy. The rep will also mention their pole tethering alternative that might work for you. They will proceed to set up an appointment for your move.

Be sure to ask if the move is going to cost you anything. If this is your first time moving, it shouldn't cost anything, but ask anyway. Some sort of verbal confirmation is always best.

Things to know:

Step 4: The Appointment

DirecTV technicians will arrive at your new address. Remind them that due to your restrictions set by your landlord or building manager, they will not be able to mount the satellite dish to the building. They will walk around your apartment building and inside your apartment looking for a balcony, fire escape, or patio that might be suitable for the dish. They will first look on sides facing southwest. If and when they realize there is no suitable location on the south or west sides, they will take a reading at any available locations (such as balconies or patios facing other directions). This is where you cross your fingers and hope there are no anomalies. They won't have a strong enough signal so the technician will break the "bad" news to you. "It doesn't look like we're going to be able to install your dish unless you convince your landlord to let us put it on the roof."

It's time to practice your acting skills. Act disappointed, but not too disappointed. Ask the technician what you should do next since you won't be able to have service. They will hint at the idea of cancelling, but won't explicitly say that is the next step. The technician does not want to be responsible for suggesting that a customer cancel, even though that really is the only option that makes sense at this point. Ask the technician if you are going to be charged an early cancellation fee and make it clear to him or her that this would be unfair since the conditions are out of your control. Be respectful to the technician, he is not your enemy. His report about the conditions of your new apartment are going to be the key to your plan's success. The technician will tell you to expect a phone call from a DirecTV representative within the next few minutes.

Step 5: The phone call

The representative will call you within minutes. They will ask for some identity verification information as usual. They will have knowledge of the failed installation attempt that just occurred and suggest to you that you set up another appointment for a more experienced technician to come out and try to make it work. Tell them you trust that your technician was competent and you don't want to waste anyone's time getting a second opinion. This representative likely will not have the power to waive your cancellation fee, nor the ability to close out any account. Ask to be transferred to the cancellation department.

Step 6: The cancellation department

They will ask for your identity information and will likely be completely unaware of what has happened with you so far. We are trusting that the notes in your account will make it clear that the technician could not get a line of sight with the satellite dish. Tell the representative this is the reason you are cancelling. Make sure the rep confirms your cancellation fee will be waived. If they will not waive the fee, do not cancel. If all goes well, they will acknowledge that they are going to waive the cancellation fee and give you information on what to do with your DirecTV equipment. It's not over when the phone call ends.

Step 7: The bullshit

DirecTV will likely charge an early cancellation fee to your account even though they expressly said they were going to waive it. Don't worry, this is the way monopolistic companies work. They don't care if they upset you, because they know they will always have a strong share of TV subscribers no matter how they treat people. Once you notice this fee in your account, call them back and request that they remove the fee. They will see notes in your account that confirm your story. They will apologize and say they are going to remove it.

Things to know:

Did these steps work for you? Let me know! Please share your own experiences and tips in the comments.