Tivo Customers Face $150 Cancellation Fee

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2005

TiVo LogoFirst Macrovision DRM, now this… Tivo has gone the route of most cell phone providers with their updated service agreement. They’ll sell you hardware at a loss, but guarantee themselves service revenue to recoup those expenses. If you cancel service within a year of activating your unit, you’ll be penalized $150. No caveat for multi-Tivo homes has been posted or explained, though Tivo did use the word may in the new policy.

Tivo’s definitely learning how to become profitable, but at what cost? New ads and fees like this will likely alienate a percentage of customers.

Tivo says: WITH RESPECT TO ANY NEW TIVO SERVICE SUBSCRIPTION ACTIVATED ON OR AFTER SEPTEMBER 6, 2005, YOU AGREE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE TIVO SERVICE FOR NO LESS THAN 12 MONTHS (THE “SERVICE COMMITMENT”). IF YOU FAIL TO MEET THE SERVICE COMMITMENT BY CANCELLING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION TO THE TIVO SERVICE (OR IF TIVO TERMINATES YOUR SUBSCRIPTION TO THE TIVO SERVICE DUE TO A BREACH OF THIS AGREEMENT), YOU AGREE THAT TIVO MAY CHARGE YOU A $150 EARLY TERMINATION FEE, AND YOU AGREE TO PAY ANY SUCH EARLY TERMINATION FEE.

41 responses to Tivo Customers Face $150 Cancellation Fee

  1. They do have a 30-day initial allowance before the early termination fee would apply. So if a consumer brings home a TiVo and for whatever reason decides in the first month that it isn’t for them, they can return it and cancel service without penalty.

  2. Oh, BTW, I got that from the website offer you posted about earlier:
    http://tinyurl.com/yg28lx

    It’s in the print at the bottom of the page….I don’t see it referred to in their TOS, however.

  3. Keep in mind they’re also offering a $150 rebate – I don’t think it is a coincidence that the early termination fee is $150. Sure, you can have a box for $49 – *IF* you keep it for a year. Otherwise it is $200. I don’t have a problem with that. Heck, I say spend the $348 and go lifetime out the gate.

  4. Yes it is true that in th first 30 days, you can return the machine, but what it on the 31st day they take away a feature you really enjoy. TiVo is going in the wrong direction, and it’s stupid to trust that they will maintain the quality of service that you initially agreed to. They just don’t have to. The DRM crap is a clear indication of the direction that TiVo is going in.

  5. If this isn’t enough incentive to move your computer onto your cable system, nothing will be. There’s no service fee, software will usually take care of automatically setting up capture options, and component connections are supported on certain cards. All you pay is the inital cost of a capture card and that’s it. There’s no subscription. I’ve been using ATI ALL-IN-WONDER cards for years, and have never had any issues, including moving the files onto DVD since the ALL-IN-WONDER cards even include DVD Authoring software.

  6. Um…just DON’T CANCEL. $13/mo x 12 = $156. Plus, TWC has a DVR for $4.95/mo and no contracts.

  7. I called Tivo to cancel last month and they dropped my monthly rate to $6.99 a month..even if I buy a new box the rate stays the same. I was pretty happy with them.

  8. Suck it up folks, Tivo has every right to do this, just like you have the right not to sign up, and if you read your agreement before signing up you would know about this. You accept these fees on your Cel phone so why not Tivo?

  9. Suck it up or not, doesn’t mean it’s an attractive marketing to new customers. Last thing I’m going to get.

  10. Tivo sucks ass! I hate their product and I hate their policy. I had one of these things a few years ago and it pissed me off on a fairly regular basis. Now I rent a DVR from Cox for $4 a month. So long Tivo! Burn in hell you little freak!

  11. Why would you want to cancel the service? I’ve had it for over 4 years now, never been let down once… :-)

  12. Just use a free DVR like MythTV. You can get your own hardware, add a new harddrive when you want, and will never have your contract or software updated without your knowledge.

  13. To get rid of TiVo for something they might do seems silly to me. The day they restrict something I have on the drive, or disallow me to save something forever, I will consider getting rid of it. Until then, it is the best product I have ever owned.

  14. TIVO is in violation of the federal RICO laws.

  15. “Tivo has every right to do this,”

    Not according to the Restatements of Contracts… even when both parties willingly sign an agreement, it is not enforceable if the contract is unconscionable.

    Changing the terms of the contract after the agreement, but refusing to let the other person out of the bargain is the paragon of unconscionability.

    If you think TiVo CAN change their terms to bind people who agreed to older agreements, what’s to stop them from changing $150 to $150,000, and what’s to stop them from changing “1 Year” to “For Life?” Suddenly, all of TiVo’s current subscribers are lifetime members at any rate TiVo wants to set! But they have “EVERY RIGHT TO DO THIS!”

  16. Thomas is obviously a bit of the old foil hat brigade. Without having read the agreement that was made i can offer no firm view on the matter but i would assume that there was some form of contract along the lines of “and some programs will not be recordable”. The fact that the person agreed to a contract that was open or vague is their problem really. They could have requested a paper copy and struck those points through and initialled them and sent it back.

    Equally you can agree to a contract that has the time and value open to further change. This is often done in the film industry where an actor is signed on for a series of films and then the studio for instance has the option of having them film 3 or 5.

    Just because you don’t like what the contract has become (i know there are some legal arguments about intention but I’ll leave those for someone with actual training in the subject) doesn’t mean that it is void. Just means you should have read the contract first and thought about the implications.

  17. First, IANL, but I seem to recall something from back in the mists of time in a contracts class I “audited”. SOmething about this type of “contractual agreement” being called an adhesion contract. I seem to recall (a long time ago) that courts had held that because the conditions indicating clear meeting of minds did not hold such were not enforcable.

    That said, it now become the responsibility of the agreved party (customer) to resist this… placing the burden on the weaker party. SOmething just ain’t right here

  18. When both my television and my VCR went out back in February, I cancelled my cable subscription until I could afford to buy a new television and DVD/VCR from the money I saved by not having cable. I figure come income tax refund time I should be able to afford a nice new tv and DVD/VCR. In the meantime, I’m still alive and not suffering too much from not having a television.

    So now would someone kindly explain: 1.) what is TiVo; and 2.) why would I want it? Does it cure lower back pain? Knee pain? Headaches? Sinusitis? Does it make coffee? Order pizza? Or does it make bootleg copies of stupid stuff that wasn’t worth watching the first time?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  19. Just so that I’m clear…

    A company has created a device which you pay many to own but you don’t really own. They have created a service which they can change whenever the mood hits them. And if you purchase one of these boxes and you have absolutely no power over it. You are not allowed to legally modify it, and you have zero control over what is tranmitted or from it.

    And the consumer gets to pay how much for this thing?

    Anything more than zero is too much to me.

  20. Mort, don’t post a message on a topic you know nothing about. Learn about tivo at http://www.tivo.com, and please withhold further comments until you do so. Common sense? – I think so.

  21. Another Message from the Old Foil Hat Brigade:

    A lot of folks think that two parties will be bound to anything they can put in writing. This view is hopelessly naive.

    Frank’s absolutely right that some contracts can be binding with unsettled terms. Unfortunately for Frank, most aren’t. This one isn’t.

    But Frank hasn’t actually read the contract, even though it’s easily accessible, so he wouldn’t know. It’s okay, reading is hard without foil hat power.

    Generally, if you change what you are providing, the contract no longer has any binding force. If I sell you a cow and deliver a duck, you aren’t obligated to buy it just because we didn’t know exactly how much the cow would weigh that day.

    See Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. if you want to read the classic first year law school case on unenforceability due to unconscionability.

    Also, if you’re curious about the special difficulties with form contracts, Randy Barnett has an excellent law review article on the subject: 71 Fordham L Rev 627, http://randybarnett.com/71ford627.html#one-two

    I think there’s a good case for unconscionability, and maybe a case that there wasn’t mutual assent over clear and definite terms, but there’s definitely room for debate. If Zatz really cares, he’ll get a free consultation from a lawyer in his area. I’m sure we’d all love to hear what a professional recommends, rather than the just mad ravings of crazy folks like me and Frank.

  22. As underhanded as this might seem, the point of TIVO seems to be to record television programs for a small fee. Aside from the fact that you must be a little crazy to want to own anything shown on TV as it is, users agreed to pay the fee upon signing the contract. If TIVO changes the boundaries of that contract, then users should have the right to cancel without penalty. They’ve done this with our cell phones, and we sat there and took it. The same goes for this, now. When will people start standing up for this and refusing to buy their stupid products? Oh, right, never. Because we’re a bunch of sheep….

  23. You might also want to check your state laws. Some states don’t allow companies (cell phone, cable etc.) to hold you to contracts like this -you can always cancel with no penalty. IIRC the only catch is you may have to return hardware (cell phone, Tivo…) that you were “given” as part of the contract.

  24. Thanks to all for the heads-up. I was just about to sign up for TiVo after hearing it described in terms as if it were soooo convenient. Now – hearing all this stuff about Tivo changing contract terms at whim etc – I think I’ll stick to buying an occasional DVD now & again, at least for a year or two & see what terms we peasants collectively negotiate for ourselves. It seems to me it’s all going downhill. We get less and pay more every time. Is there any show on TV that is worth being yanked around over? (Then again I like to read books, which most people don’t. Maybe if people weren’t so dependent on a single form of entertainment, the big corporations wouldn’t have such power – might even have to care about what customers think/want/feel.)

  25. Ah, Also, you total innocent. The fact of the matter is, you are not the consumer of TV. Neither am I. We are the product. They produce stuff to gather our attention so they can sell it to advertisers, plain and simple. As long as people sit there no matter what kind of tripe they broadcast, they win. Frankly, my TV only exists to play DVDs and has for the last couple of years. I listen to MP3s in the car. I just got sick of someone trying to sell me something every second of every day of my life.

  26. I’m impressed by the rampant paranoia this brings out in people, it amuses me.

    You know, I’ve lost count of how many times someone has said that TiVo was on a ‘slippery slope’ and they were going to start limiting usability, removing features, etc. I’ve been hearing the same dull refrain for three years now, and it has yet to be true.

    In that time TiVo has released both new hardware and software that have greatly added to functionality, while not one feature has been removed. Most people don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, just repeating rumors they picked up somewhere, and usually the rumors end up mutating horribly as they’re repeated.

    If and when I see TIVo actually crippling their service, then it’ll be an issue. Until then it is just a bunch of hot air. If you’re that paranoid, fine, build your own MythTV box and be happy. Just stop ranting about what TiVo is sure to do – you haven’t been right yet, and it is getting old.

    As for the contracts, while there may be limitations in some states, in most the cell phone contract model is indeed binding. And changes to the service are allowed without voiding the contract. Now, if the changes are radical and negative, then it would be an unconscionable change. That hasn’t happened yet.

    The fact is this business model works, and overall people like it. Consumers get to spend less money in exchange for a service commitment. It works very well for cell phones and the satellite TV industries. With cell phones you usually have the option of not having any service commitment, but then you pay more for the phone. Very few people take that option.

    Additionally the termination fee isn’t automatic, they ‘may’ apply it at their discretion. I’ve had to terminate contracts before, due to moving, etc, and since it was for something outside of my control vendors waived the fee.

    Overall this isn’t going to matter to the vast majority of their target market. Most people will probably never even notice it is there.

  27. I don’t understand. I got a tivo and like it enuff to get a second. It’s ez-r than my vcr and now with desktop tivo and roxio can’t beat it. As for a penilty I did not buy tivo with the thought of not getting the service or stopping it within a year. Also if I buy something from a store and don’t want it some places charge me a 15% restock fee. I hope that tivo does not go out and say that I need a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION AND IF i CANCEL they will charge me X thousands of dollars to cancel. I have a little more faith in big business. As for other contracts read the EULA on most software now that’s scarry.

  28. Why won’t TIVO even let you complain about there lack of customer service. The only answer is they know it.

  29. Ever since the summer release with “Kidzone” my TiVo is useless. Random reboots, slow menus, thumbs up/down no longer work, random hangs…etc TiVo as a company is useless as they deny crippling my device with their software release. I had no control over installing this release, even after many complaints from people that the release was not up to snuff, they pushed it out anyway. If anybody wants to start a class action suit…count me in.

  30. tivo really does suck- And now I have no way out!!!
    My daughter purchased this for me at Christmas- She never activated it- just gave it to me- It came with one free month of service-{Is that where there get you?}
    Like I said – she never ever commettited to anything-Every month her credit card bill is being charged- She has tried to conact tivo to chage the credit card to my nameso I can pay the bill- The want to know her activition number before she can cancell-
    like I said- WE HAVE NO ACTIVION NUMBER- because she never signed up for it- She has tried to call her credit card to cancell the service, but they said not util she cancells her service- How do you cancell something you don’t have?
    If I could just talk to someone- ANY human- but no… Please press 1- or 2-etc….
    The number I have is 1 877-367-8486- Does anyone please know of any other number that works?

    Thanks

  31. Barone in Arizona June 16, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    I tried to cancel two HD Tivo subscriptions because neither box works. This is my reason. I have been battling pixelation, cable card issues and shows not recording for (1) year. Tivo’s attitude is, you should have cancelled within the 30 day period.

    Bull!

    Tivo has so many problems, it’s is incredible they are still in business. Just go to the community forum and see for yourself.

    If you are thinking about Tivo, stop and think again.

  32. At least with Cellphone agreements your getting a free phone, I spent $600 on my Tivo 3 and am still stuck paying while it sits in a box since it no longer works with my cable service that was upgraded by the cable compnay. Great

  33. ***I hate TIVO*** I called to cancel because it didnt work with my cable and they said I would have to pay $200 to get out of the contract because its not their problem…Can they really do that??

  34. I always loved tivo. I bought 3 of them. Now they are running ads all over the place. The reason I bought tivo in the first place was to NOT see ads. Tivo sold us out! I will never buy another one. Never recommend another one to anyone! I hope they are happy with their billions from their advertisers, greedy bastards. They won’t be getting any more of my money. I’m sorry I fell for their scam! I paid for an ad free service and they are ripping me off!

  35. TIVO SUCKS….

    They’ll bait and switch you and then bill you. Just got a auto debit for $9.95 after cancelling 3 months ago. I had two TIVO’s and one with the Lifetime Subscription. Called in May to cancel and the Tivo guy wouldn’t give up on trying to keep the unit active. Thought I was dealing with AOL as he just kept trying to sell the service even offering me a new unit for $50 when I told him mine did’nt record anymore.

    So three months go by and they just bill my bank account for a NON_WORKING TIVO. Well they better hit the back button on this one and refund my money or I’ll be contacting the State Attorney General.

    Total B.S., I’ve lost all respect for their service.

  36. Does anyone know of a new or ongoing class action lawsuit against TIVO for the early termination fee? There were many similar, successful class action lawsuits against cell phone companies (Sprint, Verizon etc.) in recent years for early termination fees. If anyone has any information, please foward to danscannell@msn.com
    BTW, I was told I would have to pay an early termination fee because I had a contract, and so I asked for a copy of the “contact.” The customer service rep put me on hold, then came back and said there wasn’t a written contract, but when I signed up for TIVO on the phone two-and-a-half years ago, the customer service rep should have mentioned it (they didn’t).

  37. As Brett says, just don’t cancel. Use the service for the ‘required’ 1 or 2 years. I hate how companies have that penalty. They make it such that one is forced to remain using their services even if one doesn’t wat to.

  38. Awful customer service, bordering on criminal. I bought a used Tivo and tried to get service for it, but couldn’t because the prior contract wasn’t completed. So instead of ending the prior contract so I could start a new contract in my name, Tivo transferred the prior owner’s contract into my name, without my permission, and made me responsible for the remainder of the contract.

    I only found this out when going back into my account to make sure that they had billed me the correct amount. My “recourse” was to cancel “my” contract early and pay a termination fee. Nice option for their error. Just to insult the prior owner, Tivo also exposed all the prior account details in my online account. Glad to see the don’t care at all about safeguarding personal information.

    So I will never do business with Tivo. They have proven to me that they are not trustworthy at all.

  39. A fair warning about TiVo and why TiVo sucks.
    Short version: I paid for a lifetime subscription. TiVo cancelled my account, claimed I called and cancelled, and claimed they credited my account. I never called and cancelled my account and they never issued a credit to my credit card. Now I have a useless TiVo machine with no service and I’m out over $300.
    Details: I used to always brag about TiVo and have purchased 6 TiVo machines. I have been a TiVo customer for years and currently have three TiVo boxes “running.” I have to put quotes around running since TiVo took it upon themselves to turn off one of them, which I paid a lifetime subscription for. I received and email warning and I emailed back to TiVo and even attached screenshot showing I had a lifetime subscription and never received any response. The proceeded to shut off my box. I then had the pleasure of calling TiVo. Should you ever call them, be prepared to be on hold forever. After giving up on two previous occasions, I finally planned my day around it and was able to get through after about 20 minutes of being on hold. The customer service representative was less than helpful. He claimed I called and cancelled my account, which I had not. I explained I had a lifetime subscription and he insisted I cancelled my account and claimed my credit card was credited. My credit card was never credited and I explained that. He then claimed their records showed they issued me a credit and he blamed my credit card company and said I had to take it up with them.
    I called my credit card company and they confirmed I never received a credit from TiVo.
    I got online with TiVo, which still took about 30 minutes to get a representative. The guy looked at my account and agreed something did not look correct; however, he would have to send it to a supervisor to look at. Even though he did absolutely nothing to rectify the problem, except pass it along, he seemed helpful. He told me someone would call me and I asked if they would leave a message with a number I could call back without being on hold forever, since I don’t answer calls I don’t recognize, since they’re oftentimes sales calls. He said they would leave a number that was a direct line. Did they ever call and so much as leave a message? No.
    Bottom line: TiVo can take your money, claim you cancelled, claim they refunded your money, and leave you with a useless TiVo box and out hundreds of dollars. But they’ll make sure they wait a few months, so you don’t even have recourse with your credit card company. TiVo SUCKS.

  40. Scott, you are a seriously disturbing person. I’ve seen you post this exact same message on every single Tivo related forum on the internet. Fact is, you’re completely full of it and are begging for a lawsuit curtesy of Tivo’s high paid attorneys. Tivo CANNOT cancel your account unless you do it yourself online or you call in to do it and more over, it’s impossible for them to cancel Product Lifetime Service, period. Lifetime service stays with the box, it’s not even attached to you or your account with Tivo. IE. you could see that box on eBay to a complete stranger, it would still have service. I don’t know if you’re mentally ill or what, but you have no business making up blatant lies to tarnish a companies reputation. PLEASE get off these forums and get a life. You take the expression “nutball loser with too much free time on his hands” to a whole new level.

  41. I went thru a divorce and ex hubby left me with the Tivo and its contract. Tivo never notified me when the contract expired and I was just paying “month-to-month”. Then, after many years, the remote broke ( was very expensive to get a new one and that one broke right away) and then the box broke so that is when I called and found the contract was expired and I was no longer obligated to keep this annoying payment on the credit card. They did not offer to fix or replace the box and I told them the main reason I was quitting Tivo was because there was nobody in the Northeastern U.S. to come out to fix any of it, then they offered the service for something like $4/month if I stayed with them, never offering to fix or replace anything for free or at cost, so I declined. Don’t need anymore monthly bills following a divorce anyway, not enough on t.v. to keep a 50 yr. old interested anyway! The local cable service offers an equivalent DVR and said they were removing Tivos from people’s homes like crazy! I don’t own a recording device of any kind – don’t really miss it – just enjoy watching my classic movies on DVD, the cartoon network and weather channel anyway!