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Did the Better Business Bureau Shakedown DIRECTV?
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (March 13, 2013) - During the last few years, the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles has given DIRECTV failing grades for poor service and allegedly ignoring the complaints of their customers. In fact, the consumer watchdog group's LA office, where DIRECTV's headquarters is located, issued its lowest rating of F twice and once gave DIRECTV a D.

At the time of the ratings, DIRECTV was the subject of widespread complaints that it was requiring a two-year contract for certain benefits such as not having to pay for a set-top when subscribing. However, other TV providers, such as Verizon, were also requiring two-year agreements and they were getting A's and B's from BBB offices in other states. (The local BBB chapters issue the grades so DIRECTV's grades came from the LA office.)

The low grades seemed odd considering that DIRECTV, while a large corporation, was unlikely to totally ignore its customer base, as the LA BBB was suggesting. The grades also posed an obstacle for DIRECTV as it attempted to sign up new subscribers who might find the poor BBB ratings off-putting.

Now cut to March 2013. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the national Better Business Bureau office has ousted the Los Angeles chapter for allegedly requiring LA-based companies to pay membership fees in return for good grades.

DIRECTV is not accredited by the BBB and apparently never agreed to pay the fees.

The Times writes that evidence indicates that the LA BBB 'pay-for-play' scheme lasted for years and entrapped a slew of businesses including the world-famous Spago restaurant who only received a grade of B-minus although it received few customer complaints; Spago never paid the $300 fee to become BBB-accredited. The newspaper notes that another area restaurant did pay and received an A+ grade.

"Over a period of more than two years, BBB of the Southland (LA area) failed to resolve concerns about compliance with several standards required of BBBs, including standards relating to accreditation, reporting on businesses, and handling complaints," Carrie A. Hurt, president and chief executive of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said yesterday, according to the Times.

So, did DIRECTV get set up by the BBB's LA office?  Would it have received better grades if it had simply paid up? last night asked DIRECTV for a comment, but company spokesman Robert Mercer declined, which is not too surprising considering that the national BBB investigation is ongoing and the LA situation is in flux.

In 2009, DIRECTV had a 'B' grade from the Better Business Bureau, but the grade was suddenly taken away and changed to a
"no rating."
Did the grade change because DIRECTV refused to ante up? Perhaps the national BBB investigation will shed some light on that.

For the Better Business Bureau, which consumers once used to vouch for businesses across the nation, the LA controversy now puts the entire organization's credibility in doubt. The national office said a 'virtual' LA office will be put in place until a new group can be established.

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