AT&T denies refunds for DirecTV Now customers, despite the service’s performance issues

Next Story

Baidu opens augmented reality lab, begins integrating AR into search

A number of consumers report they’re unable to get a refund for their subscription to AT&T’s recently launched streaming service, DirecTV Now – something they’ve requested after being unhappy with the new service’s performance. According to several postings on AT&T’s official forums, customers found the only way to get help was through a hard-to-find chat feature, and when they asked the AT&T reps about refunds, the customers were told they were not offered.

Writes one user with the handle EIUdrummerboy, after attempting to get a refund via chat, the rep told them specifically:

We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds.

Another, who tried to cancel their 7-day free trial was denied a refund even though they cancelled within a week. (The rep told them they had to cancel by 7 PM EST, and the customer was on central time, making them an hour late).

A third experienced a similar issue, having cancelled within a 6-day period, but found they were still charged $37.89 for the month. When they hopped on chat to complain, a rep told them refunds are not provided.

There are more than a handful of complaints about the inability to get a refund, even though AT&T has marketed DirecTV Now as a “cancel anytime,” commitment-free type of service. While it’s true that AT&T will process your cancellation, it seems you can’t get your money back, if dissatisfied.

Because of this, one customer got so fed up, they filed a complaint with the FCC, which did provide them with a $25 refund after they explained that AT&T wasn’t offering refunds, credits or extensions of its service period, despite the service’s failure to properly function.

Many others have now done the same.

The demand for refunds is due to the fact that DirecTV Now has been struggling with performance issues.

Of course, new streaming services often face stability problems and bugs at first launch while they ramp up network and server capacity to handle an influx of users.( Just ask Sling TV, for example. It was buggy at launch, but later stabilized.)

However, AT&T’s DirecTV Now – which was not marketed as being in “beta,” we should note – has has more than its fair share of problems. The company is aware, as it asked questions about bugs and glitches in a recently emailed customer survey.

Meanwhile, customers postings to AT&T’s user forums and social media have been complaining about the service freezing and buffering, app crashes, being automatically logged out, and more. In particular, the issues seem worse in the evenings and on Apple TV, some have stated. (This latter complaint is only anecdotal for now.)

“Constant buffering, freezing and lockups at various times of the day…,” lamented one forum user. “DirecTV Now is NOT ready for prime time.”

In any event, it seems unfair – and potentially illegal – to charge for a service that doesn’t work, then refuse to refund money when the customer complains and requests a cancellation.

For AT&T, its inability to quickly address these issues, including not only DirecTV Now’s problems but also its customer service failures, could spell doom for the otherwise promising offering.

The service has aimed to take on traditional pay TV with a low-cost streaming option that delivers over 120 live TV channels, including a number of sports stations and the ability to add on HBO or Cinemax for just $5 more.

But it’s not the only option on the market. Dish’s Sling TV is also available, as is PlayStation Vue, and Hulu is preparing to soon enter the space with its own live TV service, too.

For those looking to cut the cord, channel lineup alone is not a determining factor. The experience itself also matters, including the user interface, recommendations, ease of use, pricing, cross-platform support, performance, and more.

Reached for comment, an AT&T spokesperson offered the following statement:

With any new technology there are going to be fixes that need to be made. While we understand we still have work to do, overall feedback on DIRECTV NOW has been very positive. We’re continuously updating the app to provide a better experience for customers. We encourage customer to keep the app updated.

The company did not answer questions regarding the refund process (or lack thereof), nor why it was at least not honoring refunds in the case of an email that promised a 30-day free trial, but then switched it to a 7-day trial when customers clicked through.

If AT&T chooses to further comment, we’ll update here.

Update, 1/17/16, 2:30 PM ET:

The company commented on its decision to not offer refunds, explaining that partial refunds are not provided:

DirecTV Now is a prepaid monthly service that allows customers to cancel at any time. Since charges are prepaid each month, customers can enjoy the service through the end of the current billing cycle. Refunds are not issued for a partial month.

And it said that it would honor the 30-day trial in the isolated incidents where it didn’t work:

We’re currently offering all new customers a free 7-day trial for DIRECTV NOW. We’ve provided a select number of customers with a 30-day free trial code to be input during signup. Customers who may have input the incorrect code would likely have continued their signup with the default 7-day trial period. While these seem to be very isolated instances, we’re happy to honor the 30-day trial and encourage those who initially intended to register with that code to contact us for a resolution.

For what it’s worth, Sling CEO Roger Lynch has been gleefully promoting his DirecTV competitor, responding to customer complaints on Twitter with tweets that suggest they “try Sling” instead:

Were you able to get a refund? What was your experience? Email the author: sarahp@techcrunch.com