CT Watchdog: Beware of “Free” Satellite Radio Service on Your New Vehicle

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

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 – bbb.org – 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‚Äôs 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 the better business bureau at 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.

George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.



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