DirecTV gets burned over Colorado fire fees

Amid popular outrage, the satellite TV provider says it was a mistake to demand payment for lost equipment.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 14, 2013 11:37AM

An aerial view of a destroyed house in the aftermath of the Black Forest Fire in Black Forest, Colorado on June 13, 2013 (© Rick Wilking/Newscom/Reuters)Updated at 2 p.m. ET.


As if it's not bad enough to lose all your possessions in a wildfire, imagine the insult when your satellite TV provider demands $400 in payment for lost equipment. 


Jeremy Beach of Black Forest, Colo., said that's what happened after his family's house burned to the ground Tuesday, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports. When he started calling providers and utilities to cancel service to the nonexistent home, most were understanding. All except DirecTV (DTV). 


The company told him he would owe the company $400 for a satellite dish and two receivers that were lost in the fire. 


"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I had lost everything, and they acted like they could (not) care less."


Beach fled the fire with his 5-year-old son and wife, who is pregnant with twins. He said he needs that money "to rebuild my life: cups, plates, shoes, a new bike for my kid. I got so angry I had to hang up."


But DirecTV is now saying that the demand for payment was a mistake. A spokesman told MSN Money that the agent who spoke with Beach was incorrect. "We are contacting the customer to apologize and assure him and his family that we will do everything we can to help them through this difficult time," spokesman Darris Gringeri wrote in an email. He added that the customer service representative didn't follow company policy on the issue.


DirecTV's reputation has already been damaged by the incident, however. 


Dozens of people in the Colorado Springs area posted outraged comments on the Gazette's site, and some pledged to switch providers or call with complaints. 


"There comes a line where you have to see what a company is made of and if extreme circumstances don't account for a little leniency (then) it is not a company I want to be a part of," one Colorado Springs resident wrote on the Gazette's site. 


The wildfire raging near Colorado Springs is the most destructive in the state's history, NBC News reports. So far, two people have died in the 15,700 acre Black Forest fire, and 378 houses have burned. More than 30,000 people have fled their homes. 


It's not the first time DirecTV has played hardball with fire victims. In 2012, the company charged Colorado fire victims for equipment, saying most people's insurance would cover the cost, the Gazette notes. 


DirecTV charged one Los Angeles County man about $280 in 2009 after his two-bedroom cabin burned to the ground in a wildfire, according to the Los Angeles Times. When the man called to complain, DirecTV told him it was actually doing him a favor, since he could have been billed $400 for the lost equipment. The company's contract spells out that customers are liable for lost equipment.


DirecTV eventually called that case a "regrettable mistake" and refunded the $280.


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 


More on moneyNOW

15Comments
Jun 15, 2013 1:40AM
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Of course you are responsible if someone eases property is lost in a fire, that why you buy insurance against catastrophic events.  It's no different than renting a car, you either pay for their coverage or use your own if something happens.  Why would Direct TV be on the hook for the loss of their equipment, you signed a contract taking responsibility for it.  No one takes any accountability anymore for anything.  For the loosers who weren't properly insured the government will bail them out anyway, that's why they voted for a moron like Obama in the first place, just looking for handouts.
Jun 14, 2013 2:05PM
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Both DirecTV and Dish Network suck!
Jun 14, 2013 3:28PM
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flavafrav is correct, however, a wildfire is counted as a natural disaster and as a former DirecTV employee they should've put that  in their replacement program. That's what it's there for. The reason they didn't is because of incompetence which is a whole other problem.
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This is likely a result of a poorly trained and supervised employee making a decision that is out of their capabilities. What I have an issue is with even if the customer had to pay for equipment DTV should wait until the insurance settlement and only be paid the actual value of the equipment rather the inflated retail amount that DTV chargers customers. I had a receiver that I paid for up front and monthly until it was replaced with a DVR when I added that service. I confirmed that they did not want it back it was not a currently used model but still allowable and actively being used by existing customers. DTV prevented it from being used again by refusing to activate it for anyone else even if they have existing equipment on lease so they can charge you to lease a new one which is not always new since they typically send out refurbished equipment from the numerous people that cancel their service. If you must have SATTV suggest you switch back and forth between DTV and Dish taking advantage of new customer incentives each time or you will wind up paying an ever increasing amount for the privilege of making them a higher profit margin by using old equipment while paying the highest prices.
Jun 14, 2013 12:49PM
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Big Business at it finest!  It's all about the money, and scr*w everything and everyone else.
Jun 14, 2013 1:17PM
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Homeowners insurance should reimburse DirectTV, if the resident had it.
As an example, if they had a leased vehicle that was lost to the fire they would be responsible for the value of the vehicle, not the lease company.
People need to take responsibility and insure their obligations in life.
Jun 15, 2013 3:17PM
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They Ruined my 18yr. -755' credit rating after I called my chase card, about  their overcharged ! They refused to refund $72.00 ,but said I now have a credit on my closed account!-My 2yrs contract was up,+ I wanted to be done with them!   Then 3 months after I moved to another state, +the  movers put 98% of my stuff in a 10'x25' storage unit.  DTV. sends me a over due bill for 200.00,+16.00 Tax on a 3 yr. old box, they  wanted back.  Every contract I ever had w/them since 77' after 2 yrs. you own the outdated box. But now, I do not own it! -I said that I would gladly send it back to them when I find a house to move into,+ movers clean it out, I will send it back to them!- I have no use for it. Never knew that they wanted it back!  I said that I am a 100% DAV,+ can not get into the unit, packed to the top ,to find it!- *Those Heartless Bastards just wanted to get even with me!  *Will file a FCC complaint about them! Will check with a lawyer about this,and may file suit over this!---*Karma will catch up with you, Direct TV.---*All you care about is money!-- *Even if its not yours!!!

Jun 16, 2013 3:16PM
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Why is anyone surprised? These guys are at the bottom of everyone's satisfaction list!

This kind of behavior is policy, not an accident!

Jun 16, 2013 12:01PM
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If you cancel their services...They never come and take that crap off your houses, remove the wire and patch any holes...You own it....They don't want it.
Jun 14, 2013 2:03PM
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Things like that I remember. I've always debated whether to switch to Direct TV but this kind of coldness leaves me cold
Jun 16, 2013 11:58AM
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We are very sorry for your loss; Oh, BTW........
Jun 14, 2013 5:15PM
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WENT THOUGH SAME PROBLEM IN 93 IN THE SLUMS OF HURON TN/GET THIS LOCAL GESTBO WAS GOING TO BREAK MY DOOR DOWN/WHEN WIFE GOT OUT OF NUT HOUSE /I KEEP UP RADOI CONTACT IF THEY CAN HAVE ON THERE BELT/I HOPE THE SCUM READ THIS/IF YOU NEED HELP THE LOCAL CHURCHS ARE THE BEST I WISH MY GREAT GANDPARENTS HAD NEVER CAME THIS COUNTRY ALL LAND STOLEN FROM NATIVE AMERICAN WHAT IS ALL THIS PAY BACK TIME/WE CANT EVEN WIN A WAR SINCE 45 I WAS IN KOREA WHAT DID THAT DO TO HELP/ CANT DRIVE WIHOUT ROAD BLOCKS YOU CANT WALK ON COUNTRY ROADS WITHOUT SOME GOON WANTING ID

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