AT&T this week acknowledged that DirecTV has been charging the wrong regional sports fees to some customers and is now issuing bill credits to those who paid more because of the mistake.
“We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees,” an AT&T spokesperson told Ars yesterday. “We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error.” AT&T bought DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite TV provider with about 21 million customers, in 2015.
The mistake affects bills going back to late January. Customers will not have to do anything to get the credit, as it will be issued automatically.
The billing problem came to light last week when Consumerist published a report detailing how the regional sports network fees vary by ZIP code in ways that simply didn’t make sense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see different fees in different metro areas and states, since different local sports networks and teams are broadcast in different areas. But there were numerous cases in which people in adjacent ZIP codes were charged very different amounts to watch the same exact networks and teams. Some customers were charged no sports fee, while others were charged amounts of $2.47, $5.83, or $7.29 a month.
DirecTV provides online tools for checking the sports fee amount and available networks by ZIP code. AT&T last week said that it was normal for the fees to vary by ZIP code, but it could not explain why they would be different for customers who live practically next door to each other and receive the same networks. But Connie, a DirecTV customer in the Phoenix area, was able to get an answer from the office of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Consumerist wrote yesterday:
Connie tells us she finally got through to the office of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, showing them our story that backs up what she’d been trying to [tell] the company for weeks.
Stephenson’s office called Connie today, providing her with an answer that was very different from the one AT&T and DirecTV had been giving: Connie’s $7.29/month fee should actually be $0. Even better, she’d be receiving a credit for the incorrect fees, and AT&T said it was reviewing all DirecTV customers to see who else was affected.
“[The rep] thanked me for bringing it to their attention and she personally took responsibility for this error,” says Connie.
In an e-mail to Consumerist, AT&T confirmed Connie’s account of the conversation.
When contacted by Ars, AT&T did not say exactly how many customers were affected. We’ve also asked the company whether any customers weren’t charged enough as a result of the same error and will provide an update if we get one. Customers who see a bill increase will no doubt be annoyed, but at least those who were overcharged will get what they’re owed.