I resolved my dispute with DirecTV. My Final Demand Letter forced their legal department to offer a settlement to return the money left in my account. It isn’t all that much, just about $200, but DirecTV kept promising to return it for almost a year without ever sending me a check. Now I have lawyers involved, and I’m very sure that I will get my money eventually.
The moral of that story is to read the customer contract on how to resolve disputes. DirecTV’s agreement is very detailed in terms of what to do to act against them. They, and most other companies, leave out the key requirement: the Final Demand Letter. This simple document starts a thirty-day clock that no company can afford to ignore. You can find simple instructions on how to write one here. Be sure to include a line that says, “Nothing in this letter may be used as evidence in any proceeding.” or something to that effect. I understand that this can be important later. You will see a line like this in every letter the other side’s attorneys send you.
It’s interesting to me that this step is omitted in the DirecTV dispute documentation. I had to dig to discover that this is the key first step to getting satisfaction. If you hire an attorney, this is his very first step. Obviously, for $200, I couldn’t afford to hire one. It turns out that do-it-yourself collections aren’t all that hard.
Big companies often try to avoid returning deposits and overpayments to customers. A chief weapon is to hire offshore customer service representatives with limited English language skills. They just key in what you want and read the screen back to you. They have no power actually to help. ATT, DirecTV’s parent company, is famous for this strategy. They hire $2.50/hour customer service reps in India and other third-world nations to deal with their customers. My first step is to ask to be connected with a North American rep. Honest companies will have provided a way for their offshore reps to do this. ATT/DirecTV doesn’t provide this service.
Another thing I learned is how to find out where to send that final demand letter. It turns out that any corporation that doesn’t have its home office in your state, has to file an address with your state’s attorney general. This address is where any legal papers are to be sent. You can call your state’s attorney general’s office to get the address you need. Some states offer online lookups. My state does. I just copied the address supplied and sent my Final Demand Letter via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. That costs about $10. (I added that cost to my demand letter’s total due to me. You can add any reasonable expenses, including lost time at work, to your demand.)
I’m not a lawyer. Everything I know about this came from my online research. It worked for me. I’m not saying that you will get the same results, but I know that a Final Demand Letter gets the attention of US-based, English-speaking lawyers who want to make you disappear. The best way for them to do that is to offer a settlement.