I'm writing about an apparent deceptive business practice by TiVo and the complete unwillingness of customer support to remedy my situation.
In summary, I purchased a package with 1 year pre-paid service with the intent to activate later. Upon opening the packaging I learned that it had been preactivated and a call to customer service informed me that I had lost nearly 4 months of my service period while my TiVo was in its box unused. I believe TiVo is guilty of very deceptive business practices when selling with service bundles. The details including my interaction with TiVo by phone follow.
In September I received an email with a great TiVo package offer a 180-hr TiVo, wireless Ethernet and 1 yr of service. However, I wanted to see if I could cancel my existing service or transfer my account to the new TiVo I would purchase.
I called customer service saying I was going to buy a new TiVo and they told me I had more time on my current commitment and I would be charged an early-cancellation fee if I cancelled before the year. I told them I'd like to take advantage of a special offer but didn't want to pay for two plans. They said the only way to avoid double-paying was to activate the second TiVo after my commitment on the first TiVo was over.
Per what I learned from the TiVO customer service person I purchased the new TiVo package on September 13th. During the purchase process there was nothing that indicated the service period beginning at the time of purchase or shipping!
Tonight, January 11, 2007, I finally had time after the holidays to setup my new TiVo. When I opened the box I found a piece of paper stating that the TiVo was "preactivated." This still didn't explicitly tell me my 1 year had actually started in September. I decided to call customer service to find out the details.
TiVo Customer service informed me that yes, my one year of service did start in September and I had lost 3 months and 29 days of service. I asked if my service could instead start today. They said they would create a case with that request and transfer my call to accounting. I waited on hold for accounting for at least 30 minutes.
I spent that entire time on hold researching the TiVo website to determine if I should have somehow known that the service started. I found nothing after reading everything I could find online to learn if I overlooked something during my purchase. I even went through a mock purchase to see if it came up anywhere on the purchase screens.
I read *all* the relevant agreements that were linked to from the package purchasing page(s). I could find nothing that referred to pre-activation or that the service period starts when you purchase the TiVo package.
"TiVo Service payment plans terms and conditions" http://www.tivo.com/5.11.6.asp
"TiVo Service agreement" http://www.tivo.com/5.11.2.asp
"TiVo Basic and TiVo Plus Service Agreement" http://www.tivo.com/5.11.5.asp
I also did a search of "pre-activation," "preactivation" and "preactivated" through their customer support area and absolutely nothing stated that the service period started at the time of purchase or shipping, nor did anything state that the unit would come "pre-activated."
When the person in accounting, Lucas, answered he informed me that I had already agreed indeed I had lost the nearly 4-months of service but I had agreed to the terms and conditions. I said I wanted my service period to start now, not 4 months ago. He put me on hold again to see what he could do. When he returned to the phone he said the best he could do is credit me for 2-months of service.
I was exhausted at this point and very nearly accepted the offer. However, when he calculated the 2-months of service it was a prorated 2-months based on a $169 price for the one-year of service, or $28.16. This just added insult to injury, not only was I out 4-months of service but their 2-months concession would not cover 2-months of service, 2-months of service cost $39.95 ! I then realized to get my 4-months of service back it will cost me an additional $79.90 and they were offering me only $28.16 as a concession.
This lead to a long discussion about their misleading website and their pore customer service. All I wanted was one-year of service from that day, something that I had paid for and was entitled to. My wife also got on the line and explained how I spoke with customer service to carefully avoid having to pay for two overlapping service periods. After it was clear we were getting nowhere, Lucas suggested I speak to his supervisor.
I waited on hold again and then spoke to Joe (#23469). Joe recapped what he learned from Lucas and reiterated that they were being more than fair since I entered into an agreement for one year and that the terms and conditions spelled it out. I again pleaded to be shown those terms and conditions because their published terms and conditions did not spell that out whatsoever.
Joe agreed to read the same pages as me to show me where it was in the terms and conditions. He couldn't find it on the terms and conditions so finally he walked me through the purchasing process and found a very obscure place where there is a vague reference to pre-activation.
1. Select "Buy TiVo" on the left hand side of their site
2. Pick a particular TiVo box to purchase (I choose 180 hour series 2 DT)
3. On the right hand side select "offer details" next to prepaid plans
4. Within the offer details popup window select the link called "money back guarantee"
5. Within the money back guarantee popup window you will find the following statement buried:
"You may cancel your TiVo Package within 30 days of activation (which is typically your order shipment date) and return the DVR to TiVo for any reason for a full refund."
This was the best they could come up with, a very obscure language, in an obscure location and that still doesn't directly state anything about pre-activation, nor does it state that the service period starts the day they ship it. (That in its own right seems wrong, you are paying for service while the product is in transit!?) The obvious place for statements about service period and terms and conditions that I previously mentioned on their website contains nothing in reference of preactivation or service period starting on the ship date either.
During the discussion with TiVo they acknowledged they have computer records that confirm that a) I have never used this TiVo unit, and b) I called in September inquirying about purchasing a new TiVo the prepaid plan and the cancellation policy on my existing subscription.
I said no I would like one year from today, Joe said the best they could do is a $28.16 credit and did I want it. I finally stated no, I think they are participating in misleading and perhaps illegal business practices and wouldn't agree before looking into legal options.
After getting off the phone I also went back to my purchase records and found the following statement in my purchase confirmation email. Note that again nothing about pre-activation nor the service period beginning when shipped. It does mention "1 year" but not when that 1 year begins which was very naturally assumed to be when I started using the service.
Order Terms :
- Includes 1 year TiVo(r) service prepaid and 180-hour TiVo Series2 DT
DVR - Dual Tuner.
- Money Back Guarantee applies only to initial activations if canceled
within 30 days and DVR is returned for a full refund.
- No refunds for cancellations, except as permitted under 30 day Money
- After 1 year your TiVo Package will continue at the then-applicable
monthly rate for a 1 year TiVo Package.
- The parts portion only of your Limited Warranty for your TiVo DVR will
be extended for the term of your commitment period.
- Subject to full terms and conditions for TiVo Payment Plans.
- Not Eligible for Multi-Service Discount.
- Go to www. tivo.com/policies for complete terms and conditions.
I'm confident that I'm not the only customer that has experienced this I'm writing in hopes that a) you will properly notify people of your service term policy on packages and b) you could make me whole regarding my one year of service.
All of the above was sent by email to several TiVo executives. I didn't receive any response or remedy for this situation.
A, New Hampshire