12 Questions to Ask Before Switching Your Cable or Satellite Service

Sometimes appearances are not always the way they seem; like some of these promotions you get in the mail. Recently, I received a promotion from DIRECTV Satellite Company. The promotions said, $29.95 for their Choice programming, free installation, free dvd, and free three months of Showtime. We were familiar with DIRECTV because we have had it for two years at our vacation home in mountains. I wanted to make sure it was cost effective to switch from Brighthouse Cable Company to DIRECTV. After receiving all sorts of discounts, it was conclusive that by going with DIRECTV we would save $30 per month for a year. The contract is for a year and a half. So the last six months it would go back to a normal cost which still is around $9 per month cheaper than Brighthouse Cable Company.

Now, this sounded great; however there was a catch that was not disclosed to us. And that was that after a 90 day warranty on their first service call, they would charge for their labor on any breakdown of their leased equipment. We didn’t think that was fair especially given the fact we did not see this in writing. We pride ourselves on being very detailed in reviewing contracts and any information given to us. However, this time, we learned about this verbally after the purchase order went in. Really, it wasn’t our fault because like I said, we have had DIRECTV at another location for two years. So it was an easy assumption to think it continued this way. Now, I’m not saying this is all bad. We still are saving money here. However, I composed a list of questions to ask any time you switch from cable to satellite or vice versa.

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1. When you get a price quoted, ask for the final price including all fees and taxes so you can assess the total picture.

2. Ask if installation is free.

3. If they say they are shipping your equipment, ask if you pay for shipping and handling.

4. Ask if there are any monthly lease fees.

5. Ask if there is a warranty on the equipment and if labor is always included when they come out to fix a problem.

6. If there are any insurance plans that they want to sell you, ask what the monthly fee is. Find out what it covers completely, and see when you can purchase the insurance. For instance, after talking about their repair policy with DIRECTV, we found out that if you didn’t get this insurance the cost for a repair is $70. However, let’s say you need a service call after their warranty period which is 90 days. DIRECTV told us that you can ask for the insurance plan the day you break down. The cost would be only $14.95. Then they can add the $5.99 for the insurance plan. Any second repair calls, would be free. Now, if I had not pursued with the proper question, I could have just been charged $70 and then the $5.99 could be added for the insurance plan.

7. When you sign a work order agreement, see if there is a reference to a “customer service agreement. Ask for their customer service agreement before signing the work order. These “customer service agreements” typically come with your first bill which will be after the fact. Review it to make sure any of the questions I mentioned above are written in the agreement. If not, ask them where you can find it in writing?

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8. Ask them after the promotion is over, what is the total cost it would be including taxes and fees.

9. How long is the contract for? What are the penalties or charges for cancelling early?

10. Can I put the account on suspension if I go out of town? If so, does that change my contract period. The DIRECTV contract at our vacation home never changed when we would put that account on suspension every time we would visit our home. However, the new rule is when you do put it on suspension it changes your contract time at the same time. Also, ask how long you can suspend the contract and what is the shortest period of suspension. DIRECTV allows you to suspend no less than three days at a time and no more than six months at a time.

11. If you are switching to satellite, ask them if you own the equipment or if it is their property when the contract is over.

12. Ask them if you can take it with you if you move out of state. If so, are there any charges or installation fees to set it up?

All in all I’m pleased with DIRECTV even though there could be a future repair charge. Their picture quality is better than Brighthouse Cable. And it’s a good chance the additional charges might not even happen. I was pretty rest assured that typically DIRECTV works with you on these issues and are only trying to protect themselves from customers who might abuse the situation. Besides, even Brighthouse Cable actually has changed their policy when it comes to charging you. Each technician seems to have a different story on how they do it. The last one told me that if they have to come out for the same problem within 30 days, they would charge me for the service. The bottom line for me is cost. And a savings of $360 for the first year with DIRECTV is well worth it.