The devil is in these details. / Photo by Feathered Tar – Flick

Question: I recently signed up with DirecTV. After the installer had finished setting up the equipment, he asked if I’d like to sign up for DirecTV’s equipment and wiring protection package. He told me that it included service calls.

This piqued my interest, because I thought I might be moving in a few months, and so I asked him whether this covered moves. He said that it did — one move per year. This seemed like a good deal to me, so I asked him to sign me up.

I know you should get things in writing, but I trusted him, and I really don’t think you should have to have everybody you ever talk to at every business write down everything they say.

So I moved, and sure enough, when I called DirecTV’s customer service department to get my installation done, they told me that, no, the additional fee I’d been paying every month did not cover this, and yes, it would be just under $220 to have my service reconnected. And besides, I was told, the installer had no business telling me that because “he’s not even with this department.”

Honestly, I don’t care which department you’re with or how your business is structured. When a representative of a business tells me something, it should be reliable and the business should honor it. I escalated this up the chain as far as I could go with the special department they have just for people who’ve moved, and the way it was left was that I could either pay the fee or pay $360 to cancel the service. My choice.

I get that a service call costs the business money. I willingly paid extra on my bill to have what was represented as “coverage” against this kind of expense. When I made this argument to the representative, she offered to refund my coverage costs, but I didn’t accept. No matter – I got an email shortly thereafter indicating that my account had been credited for those charges, so now I feel like I can’t even argue that I paid for something and should be entitled to it. Any thoughts on how to proceed? — Nathan Witt, Dallas

Answer: I don’t like telling anyone, “I told you so” — but, I told you so. Always get something like this in writing. A quick look at what’s covered would have shown that the installer was wrong, and that your move wouldn’t be covered.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust anyone. But, as the Russian proverb says, “Trust — but verify.” Even if you’d taken the installer’s word for it, you might have taken a look at the terms of what you signed up for after you had done so. That way, you could have fixed the problem before it became a problem.

I’m a little ticked off by the way DirecTV stands behind its own product (or, more to the point, doesn’t). I’m not a DirecTV customer, but as I review its “protection” packages, it strikes me that many of the items you’re paying for should really be included in your basic service. This kind of unbundling makes a consumer advocate like me very unhappy.

Since you didn’t get DirecTV’s promise in writing, you didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. However, that wouldn’t have stopped me from appealing this to someone higher up. Here’s a list of company executives. Curiously, there’s no one at this level with “customer service” in his or her title, which in and of itself is telling. Email addresses at DirecTV are [email protected], so triangulating the correct address shouldn’t be too difficult.

I contacted DirecTV on your behalf. It agreed to waive your moving expenses because of the misunderstanding.

Should the verbal assurances of a technician override a written contract?

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