AT&T in Hawaii is under investigation after claims surfaced that a store used unethical tactics to get customers to sign up for DirecTV Now.
A Hawaii News Now report reveals that AT&T retail managers pressured staff into claiming that cell phone purchases carried a fee while offering to waive the fee if customers subscribed to a DirecTV Now trial.
According to Abraham Buonya, who was fired in June for violating the company's code of business conduct and falsifying records, “the managers basically encouraged us and informed us of how to manipulate sales.”
AT&T customer service reps were also asked to sign up for more trials than they should. DirecTV Now, which normally costs $35 per month, was charged three times at $10 a pop during promo periods using the same credit card. Managers also violated company policy by canceling trials in the customers’ names before they became paid subscriptions. Oftentimes, they forget to cancel the trials, which would lead to unexpected charges. “We were told by managers to cancel it to avoid any future headaches but a lot slips through the cracks,” Buonya said.
AT&T said in a statement that it "detected some simultaneous customer orders and cancellations" of trials and "took appropriate action" against supervisors and staff by reportedly firing some of the employees and reversing unauthorized charges. “These customers are seeing charges on their statements that they have no clue what it is, but managers are forcing us to do it because they need to meet their quotas,” Buonya said.
According to former employees, the goal of managers was to improve regional sales rankings by signing-up as many new DirecTV Now subscribers as possible. DirecTV Now sales reportedly tripled after they were counted as a sales metric with Hawaii registering "some of the best" figures. Critics say the customer service representatives have been unfairly punished for their managers’ actions. Many of the reps allegedly faced "disciplinary action" if they didn't agree with their managers’ demands.
Current and former AT&T employees have advised consumers to check for unwanted charges. "Check your statements, I have no doubt that there are still people that are being charged," a current employee said.
AT&T just announced a low-cost alternative to DirecTV Now called WatchTV for only $15 per month. The new service will also be bundled into AT&T wireless plans. In November, Philo, an AT&T competitor, introduced an affordable TV streaming service for $16 per month.
With WatchTV, viewers receive thirty channels from networks such as A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, History, IFC, Lifetime, Sundance TV, TBS, TLC, TNT, and VICELAND, among other. BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick, and VH1 will be added soon. The service also features 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand, as well as premium channels and music streaming options.