Getting out of a DirecTV contract with no ETF due to price increases

I’ve been wanting to get out of my DirecTV contract for a while now ever since AT&T U-Verse became available at my apartments, but unfortunately when I moved in I had to do a 2-year contract with DirecTV as it was the only service available at the time.

Anyway, I got an email from DirecTV stating a price increase was coming in Februrary. Could I use this as the reason for getting out of my “programming commitment” without paying the early termination fee (ETF)?

The customer agreement has a clause in section 1 paragraph D about programming changes:

The deactivation fee I’m okay with, it’s the $400+ ETF I’m concerned about. But in section 5 it still talks about the ETF so it sounds like it might still apply. So what’s the straight dope here? It seems rather unfair for the consumer that they could triple programming prices and still not let customers out of their contract without an exorbitant early cancellation fee. Some Googling shows how crazy DirecTV is about their early termination fees…

How long have you got left on the contract?

Probably around 19 months, times ~$20 a month I believe which comes out to about $380.

You’d do well to get on the horn to DirecTV and ask them personally. Also, anecdotally, many Dopers have reported success at getting a service provider to give them a lower rate that what was announced, either by simply asking, or by promising to switch providers.

I’d better check my email and see if I’ve got an increase notice.

You need to talk to them.

Direct TV bought out a service I had years ago and I didn’t go with them because then I would have been liable for a lot of fees I didn’t have with my previous contract. Yours is still the same provider though so not exactly as much of a change. Call them to find out.

If they have made a change to the terms of your agreement, and you do not agree to the change, then according to the customer agreement you linked above, they are actually the ones canceling the contract, not you.

In that case, you will be responsible for the deactivation fee, but should not be responsible for any ETF.

The Consumerist website has, over the past few years, had quite a few articles about this, mainly in relation to cellphone contracts. If the provider makes a “materially adverse” change to the contract (i.e., one that costs you more for the same service, or that reduces the level of service stipulated in your original agreement without a corresponding drop in price), you should be able to cancel without any ETF penalties.

Of course, different companies have different interpretations of what constitutes a materially adverse change to the contract, and the Consumerist also has quite a few stories about cellphone providers that insist on charging an ETF even in cases where the changes are clearly materially adverse.

Note, also, that taking advantage of material adverse changes to get out of a contract usually requires an explicit (generally a written) notice from you stating that you do not agree to the new charges. It’s often not enough simply to call a customer service rep. Also, there’s usually a relatively small window of opportunity to do this, often as short as a couple of weeks. If you don’t reject the change within that time, the company takes this as an agreement to the new conditions.

I think the DirecTV price raise indicated that if you were under certain contracts, then you would not, in fact, have to pay the increased price until your contract expired. If that is the case, you might not be able to get out of it based on this (although you wouldn’t have a price increase, which is a small comfort I suppose). I, for example, won’t have my DirecTV price increase until like next July or something.

But since DirecTV always requires you to be under some sort of “programming commitment” and not go month-to-month, are you saying the price would raise at the end of 2 years when they ask me to sign up for another 2 years?

Possibly. Possibly not.

But then you would be able to decide whether or not to take on another two-year contract. And you might be able to use the possibility of leaving as a bargaining chip to negotiate a better contract.

Ahh, the fine print says “If your current DIRECTV base package price is part of a national promotional 12-month offer, you will continue to receive this price for the remainder of your
offer period.” Which is fine and dandy for the one year, but given my contract was for 2 years that doesn’t help me so much after then.

The Washington State Attorney General reached a $1 million settlement within the past month with DirecTV for Washington residents.

Terms of the settlement (PDF warning)

You might find some nuggets in the settlement.

Ahh, I see their antics are finally being noticed. Two of their required changes are actually some reasons I wanted to switch in the first place. The first being the fact that I pay a monthly fee for leased equipment I never own but am responsible for paying $200-300 to replace should it break, and the second being me requiring to enter into another contract to have said equipment fixed.

I understand the point of an ETF for normal DirecTV consumers, where they can do some involved installation and satellite calibration… But my apartment complex actually uses DirecPath which is a cable company that utilizes a communal set of dishes for the entire complex and from there it’s regular old cable TV. So if I cancel my service it’s a lot less of a big deal than if a normal DirecTV customer cancels.


Did you ever get an answer to your original question. Can you cancell without ETF if they raise your package price? I am in the same situation. I started my two year contract in July 2009 and it will be up in July 2011. I received a notice in January 2011 that my rates would be increased in February 2011.