Sirius XM Cheating Customers?
Sirius XM Complaints: Cheating Customers by Billing Improperly
By George Gombossy | Jul 10, 2010
Nancy Shapiro of Middletown is one of the hundreds of people whom Sirius XM tried to take advantage of by billing for a contract she did not need or want, and had not requested.
When she purchased a new Buick LaCrosse, it came with a standard three-month trial subscription to Sirius XM Radio – a product I will buy with my next car.
And when the trial period ended on March 30, Shapiro contacted the company to get a regular subscription, like she had on her previous car, paying about $44 every three months.
But when her credit card bill arrived in May, she discovered she had been charged $488.86 for a lifetime subscription (the lifetime of the car).
“I contacted the company to dispute the charge,” she wrote me in an email asking for my help. “I was immediately told that the subscription was nonrefundable. I explained to the customer service representative that I had not signed up for this and when I received the same response, I spoke with a supervisor.”
“Once again, I was told that the subscription was not refundable. After a significant number of calls and virtually the same response from everyone I spoke with, I wrote a letter to the President explaining the problem and requesting a refund of the $488.86. The President has never responded to my letter.”
Shapiro also tried unsuccessfully to convince her credit card company to cancel her charge.
After checking the Better Business Bureau site and seeing hundreds of other complaints about Sirius XM billing practices, I figured I would pull out all the stops.
I sent an email to the satellite radio company’s public relations department, notifying them that I would be writing a column about this complaint as well as the complaints I saw on the BBB site and other consumer sites. I also forwarded Shapiro’s email to the attorney general’s office and to the state consumer protection commissioner, and informed the PR department about that.
While the public relations department never responded directly to me, they did to Shapiro.
Within 48 hours she became a valued customer. She received a call from the customer relations department apologizing for the problem and agreed to refund the $488.86 they billed to her Capital One account. She was also promised six months of free service.
“I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your efforts on my behalf,” she wrote me last week. “You did in one day what I have been trying to do for more than three months.” My pleasure.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also responded to me in a written statement saying that while he was pleased that Shapiro got her money back, others have also had problems.
“My office remains concerned about Sirius XM’s billing practices and will seek information from the company,” he wrote. “We have received about 20 complaints about Sirius XM in the last five years, most concerning bill practices and unwanted automatic renewal. My office has resolved all but three. We are in negotiations to resolve the remaining three. None involved lifetime subscriptions, as in Ms. Shapiro’s case.”
Another approach that Shapiro could have taken was to file a complaint against the company with bbb.org.
The BBB reports that it has received more than 3,200 complaints against the company in the past three years, with about half involving billing complaints.
Most of the complaints were resolved and the company has a B rating.
Passing of George Steinbrenner
With the passing today of George Steinbrenner, I am reminded of one of my favorite "George Moments" . . .
from today's Houston Chronicle:
"So there was this one afternoon when traffic got backed up outside the parking lots of the spring training home of the New York Yankees.
George M. Steinbrenner berated his people about this problem. He did so loudly. He also threatened to fire some people, but this was no big deal since he threatened to fire a lot of people.
That day when traffic got backed up outside the parking lot before a spring game, Steinbrenner threw a fit.
And then he went out in the parking lot and began directing traffic himself. Fans entering the parking lot were stunned to see the great Steinbrenner welcoming them to a Yankee game and directing them where to go.
Years earlier, he didn’t like the way groundskeepers were drying the field before a game. So he summoned a helicopter to blow the field dry. And he stood in shallow center field shouting orders to the pilot."
Unfortunately, many people will only know of George Steinbrenner through the cartoonish characterizations depicted in Seinfeld and, to a lesser extent, in the ESPN series "The Bronx is Burning"
One thing is true . . George Steinbrenner was a classic micro-manager and the buck stopped with George. George was old school . . . and possessed a sense of accountability that is absent in the Oprah Winfrey culture of today . . . in which nothing is anyone's fault because they were spanked as a kid . . .
Anyone who has ever started or run a successful business understands the level of 24-7 attention that is required . . . George Steinbrenner understood that and, as a result, created enormous franchise value.
With the share price of Sirius XM plummeting in December 2008, CEO Mel Karmazin sarcastically compared himself to Joe Torre, in effect saying go ahead and blame me if you wish . . . but never really taking ownership of the crisis.
So when I read an article about siginifcant billing issues at Sirius XM . . . significant enough to involve an Attorney General's office, the comparison is obvious . . the buck stops with Mel. The issues with Sirius XM billing practices need to end and heads need to roll in a very public way . . . and it needs to come from Mel, not a surrogate.
Mel needs to roll-up his sleeves and direct some traffic . . .
btw, I am not a fan of the New York Yankees . . . just someone who admires accountability, attention to detail and an old-school work ethic.
Sirius XM Is Trying to Cheat Me
I wish I had never signed up for Sirius XM.
Love the programming, hate the customer service and billing departments.
I signed up for a two year XM Everything package after my 3 month trial subscription ended on my new car. The welcome letter with my package said that I had online radio access. Three months into my subscription, my online radio was cancelled. When I called to complain, the people at XM said that I signed up for a promotional 3 month rate followed by an annual contract in June. I told them that I never did such a thing - and had the paperwork to prove it. They wouldn't listen, so I got the Better Business Bureau of NY involved. My online radio was turned back on.
So its now been 16 months into my 2 year contract and Sirius XM is sending me bills and claiming once again that I signed up for a 1 year contract. They incorrectly credited my account for what I prepaid with the 2 year package and are trying to charge me $82.66 for 3 months of service. Their customer service department hung up on me when I asked to speak to a supervisor. I emailed customer service without a reply. I then received an email stating that my radio service would be turned off if I didn't pay the bill (keep in mind that I still have 8 months until the 2 year plan is up!)
I became so upset, I contacted the Better Business Bureau of NY again and filed another complaint. This led to a barrage of daily emails from customer service again and again stating that I only signed up for a one year package. I have now taken it to the next level and have filed complaints with the Washington State and New York State Attorney General's offices. I also called Honda of America and told them about how Sirius XM has treated me. They said that if other Honda owners have had similar experiences, they should contact them as well as they are appalled to hear my situation.
Does Sirius XM try to cheat its customers...based on my experience yes. Is their customer service department incompetent? Yes. Am I hoping to cancel my service and get a refund for the time still on the contract - you bet.