12-May-2011 Update: The new HD DVR has now been ordered and paid for, and will be delivered in a few days. My existing account will be transferred to this box, and my existing TataSky+ SD DVR will be installed at my mother-in-law’s place, transferring her account to it. If all goes well, this story should end early next week.
08-May-2011 Update: Got a call from TataSky – they have dropped all the insanity, and I can now transfer my old DVR to my mom-in-law without change of account or extra payments, and just buy the new HD DVR and continue to use my existing plan on it. Seeing is believing, of course, will keep people posted.
Update: There has been a pretty massive response from people reading this post, both in the comments, as well as on Twitter. I am approving SOME, but not ALL of them (many of them are extremely abusive of TataSky, and I don’t want stuff like that here) but do keep them coming – I am reading them all.
Several commenters here and on Twitter have pointed me at this URL, which makes horrifying reading!
It also turns out that TataSky has changed their Terms and Conditions on December 30th, 2010, without informing their customers – a clear violation of their contract. I plan to take them to Consumer Court on this.
For the past few months, I have been waiting for TataSky to release their HD followup for the TataSky+ DVR. After vague promises ranging from October last year, they finally announced it recently.
While it wasn’t a pre-requisite for my purchase of a unit, I was interested in whether TataSky would be offering any form of buyback for the old TataSky+ DVRs. And I was also interested in knowing how they would handle the deluge of old DVRs that would hit the markets when people upgraded, and either handed down, or sold, their old DVRs.
I just found out.
After registering on their site, I got a call this morning from TataSky, offering me the new HD DVR. I didn’t even have to ask about buybacks or deals for existing customers – the guy who called me immediately told me that there were none.
Fair enough – I have been using it for a few years, and wasn’t really hell-bent on a buy back, and told him so. I was about to place the order, when I casually mentioned to him that I was going to transfer the old DVR to my mother-in-law. who has an existing non-DVR TataSky setup. Both of us are fully paid up for a year (she since December for Rs.4,000, and I since January for Rs.6,000), so it was just a question of swapping units and getting TataSky to make the necessary account changes.
“You can’t do that”, says the guy on the phone.
“Why not?” I asked. “I had upgraded from TataSky to TataSky+ without any problems, why can’t I do that for my mother-in-law?”
“Because you can’t do that”, says the man.
My hackles up, I proceeded to question the guy. Here is what I found out:
According to TataSky, I am not entitled to transfer my own property (the existing DVR, which I had paid for), to anyone else. If I wanted to do that, I would have to transfer my entire account to the recipient, paid up annual service and all, and take a completely new connection from Tatasky, and pay for the whole year in advance AGAIN.
However insane THAT sounds, it gets better:
I was told that the only way by which I could keep my current, paid-up account was to switch off my current DVR, inform TataSky, and they would disable the unit remotely. I would have to keep the unit at home in case I wanted to have a second TV connection later.
I told the man that we have a strict one=TV policy at home, and even if I wanted a second one, and hence a second connection, I wouldn’t want a Standard Definition (SD) connection for a new TV.
He then quietly tells me that there are no other options – if I wanted to transfer my old DVR to someone, I would have to pay for my entire MegaPack annual subscription again.
I told him to escalate to his manager, which he was willing to do, except it was with a clear smugness that it wouldn’t help. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who was being screwed, and they knew how to handle it. He promised to call back after discussing with his manager, but that clearly wasn’t happening, so I am not holding my breath.
Why would TataSky choose to screw an existing customer this way? Didn’t they realise that there are lots of other options in the market now, and that I would probably switch to Reliance, DishNet, Airtel or one of the IPTV options, rather than give in to this highway robbery that TataSky was attempting?
Even more so because given that there is already consumer-protection legislation being brought in place to allow the set-top boxes to be portable between providers (as they are legally the property of the customer), to prevent precisely this kind of illegal lock-in?
The guy on the phone tried to sell me the story that it was “technically not feasible”, but we both knew that he was lying – I had upgraded from a normal STB to a DVR without change of account, so there was no reason on earth why my mother-in-law wouldn’t be able to use my old DVR with her decoder card. The identity of the customer is established through a combination of the STB serial number and individual decoder card, so all TataSky needs to do is make a change in their records, saying that my old DVR would be used with my mother-in-law’s account, and that my current account would be used with the new HD DVR.
Understand – this is not about the money. I chose TataSky initially because I trust(ed) the Tata brand. I had other options at that time, but went with TataSky, even though it was more expensive. I have been happy with the service over the years.
But now I was being screwed by a Tata company.
Check out the costs involved:
The cost of the HD DVR (TataSky+ HD) is Rs.3,999.
I have paid for a full year of MegaPack – Rs.6,000.
My mother-in-law has paid for a smaller pack for a whole year – Rs.4,000.
If I would go with the conjob TataSky was trying to pull on me, my mother-in-law would lose her Rs.4,000 for the paid up package, my Rs.6,000 package would transfer to her, and I would have to pay TataSky Rs.3,999 for the new DVR, and another Rs.6,000 for a year of subscription.
This means that the total cost of the upgrade would be Rs.13,999 (Rs.4,000 loss to my mother-in-law, Rs.6,000 for another year’s subscription for me, and Rs.3,999 purchase price).
Not only that – my mother-in-law would not be able to give her existing STB to a relative to use.
And that was the intended purpose behind TataSky’s scam – stop existing DVR/STBs from being “handed down” or sold, so that they could protect their market, and gain greater revenues when they force people to pay for new subscriptions for their HD services.
Now understand that at the time of renewing my subscription in January, I clearly asked when the HD DVR model was going to be available, and if my subscription would transfer to that. I was told “soon” and yes, I would be able to transfer. But, as you can see above, it clearly wasn’t that simple.
Clearly, TataSky has become the Airtel of the DTH market, the 800 pound gorilla who is using his size to squeeze his customers. and if allowed to get away with it, will just become worse.
So I am now considering alternatives. ANY competitor to TataSky will be cheaper, and I am open to suggestions. Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below what you suggest.
And dear Tata brand name – it looks like we have to part ways.