TataSky: How to rip off your customers

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.


  1. It is not just Tata Sky, I have experienced such problems with almost all service industry companies. Reason is simple, lack of customer caring culture. The people whom we talk at the time of purchase need to achieve their target and they are not going to help accountable for what they have promised to the customer *verbally*. They are only expected to get more revenue for the company. They were never taught that they should always speak the truth even if it means loosing the revenue.

    We need companies led but people like Larry Page who said “If we can’t win on quality, we shouldn’t win at all.” But such people are never promoted in the corporate culture. When a the owner of a company need to select between two persons for the post of CEO, he will choose the one who can maximize the profit, not the one who is a man of his principles.

    We blame government for corruption but don’t you think what you have gone through is also a kind of corruption. This is even worse because it is organized and law-proof. On the grounds of ethics, you can not do anything more than writing a Blog like this.

  2. Padmanabhan says:

    I was a Tatasky user until Feb 2011. Since I found their worldcup/IPL offers on the higher side and also their a la carte channels a bit expensive, I decided to move to Sun Direct. To say the least, it was a bad choice. Sun directs costs are low, but the quality of the broadcast is extremely poor, I added a channel and next month it was disconnected, even though I had enough credit balance. I repeatedly called the customer care, sent mails to their nodal officer, Karnataka, and cced some of the mails to supposed the email of Mr. Maran. Finally, a technician came to my house and said that he would replace the set top box. Again, no response for a few days and I started the email chains. one fine day, 2 of their technicians come, check my dish and cable. They find that there is no Sun Direct Dish. Instead,during the installation the technician had tuned my existing Tatasky dish to Sun Direct frequency. And of course, he charged me the full amount and did not inform me about the dishy decision. The finders of this problem, assured me that they would get back to me in a couple of days. It has has been a couple of months and no one has bothered to come or respond to my mails.
    So, I decided to talk to Tatasky again. Their initial response was very prompt, but when I asked them a few questions on moving my existing normal connection to HD+, they have not been responsive. They say that they have responded to mails, but it looks to be lost in traffic. And all my Service requests they have closed.
    So, it looks like whethter it is the Tatas or the Marans or any one else, they care least for the customer. The local cable guy is better.

  3. Amal says:

    Recently I have shifted myself to Airtel, previously I had two STB from TataSky. Now I have decided to avail only one… and I am only thinking of shifting to Airtel fully after comparison. The reasons:
    1) tatasky offers MPEG2 compression techniques, Airtel offers MPEG4
    2) tatasky offers packages that are worse than Airtel packages (just compare the annual costs, it’s much less in case of Airtel)
    3) Stupid customer care. The tech associates (anyone becomes technical these days) offers voluntary visit by service engineers with a slashed rate of 125 for problems that are not so technical (idiots say my frozen picture is because my set top box has been damaged and needs a check up.)
    4)The online facility allows subscribing a package, but when you want to remove a package… not an easy option
    5) They say each channel/package is for rated for a monthly usage, but whenever i recharge the next due date is always 20 or so days
    6) If your digicomp STP is ruined, you can get one from friend, you can even buy it from secondary market but don’t worry, it’s not easy to set it up, and they’d again send an engineer to take away the service charge they have planned to ruin customers with.
    7) little rain, cloudy night…. Voila, the KU transponder seems to play jigsaw with your picture. so during monsoons, ‘DONT WATCH TATASKY’ Idiots dont increase their bandwidth/signal strength.

    You are not alone to get frustrated friend! Airtel is better choice, more better is giving away watching TV

  4. Viral Sachde says:

    Forget all this, fine print says,
    - Customer Premise Equipment is own by Tata Sky (So, you actually don’t own it). I think, only reason behind this is, as you do not own it, u can’t ask for some source code, which otherwise you are entitled. Guess on which kernel it works ?

  5. atul dixit says:

    Atul, I am sailing in SAME BOAT with you. Even I have been waiting for Tata Sky + HD for long time. I have been a TATA Sky customer right since they entered the market. Even I have been an EARLY ADAPTER of TATA SKY. PLUS. I am getting the same feeling of beeing cheated.

    Luckily my annual MEGA pack expires by Feb end. BUT

  6. Tushar Lakhe says:

    True to their ad tagline.. “isko laga daala to life jhingalala”…. they were warning us from the beginning.. but we as “fools” took a different meaning to their “jhingalala”…

  7. Abhilash says:

    Something similar was told to me by my earlier broadband provider when I told them that I wanted to use an WIFI router. They forced me to buy a Multiuser account which was double the price of my exiting plan when the only thing that they needed to change was a small setting in their system.

    These companies dont realize that there are more options available to use now. So when Airtel came along I switched in a heartbeat, and even called the my earlier provider to give them a piece of my mind.

    Would be great if we can at least see some of the non-abusive comments so that we get a good overall view from users all over the country.
    Crowd-sourced reviews, so to speak.

  8. I’ve been using Airtel Digital TV for a little over a year now, and have had a reasonable experience. You don’t have infinite flexibility about which channels you want, and their Pay Per View content is very limited – only 4 movies available at any point of time.

    Airtel makes it easy to pay your bills in various ways – phone, online, cheque, etc. But customer service isn’t all that great. Until a short while ago, service was handled by resellers ( or franchisees?), but they might have changed that recently.

    My experience hasn’t been phenomenal, but hasn’t been abysmal either.

  9. saj k says:

    You cn just transfer ur set top box to your relative and take a new set top box. Don tell Tata, Problem solved right?

  10. Manish Bhalla says:

    Shocking and definitely not the way Sky are behaving here in the UK. So it must be a Tata thing. Here, I have upgraded from a standard Sky to a Sky+ just by reusing a box my brother gave me and calling up the call center to enable DVR on my viewing card. That’s it. A minute of switching the wiring by me and a single phone call. And we can swap/exchange boxes as we please. I have given my old standard box to a friend (who had an even older one!)

  11. Abhijit Bera says:

    Tata Sky HD isn’t launching a whole bunch of new HD channels like Movies Now.

    I asked them when would they do this? They didn’t have a definite answer.

    It’s better to shift to Dish TV HD. They seem to be using the latest technology, offer almost all HD channels available and their customer service is reasonably good AFAIK.

    • Abhijit Bera says:

      Update: I am actually quite happy now with Tata Sky HD. I was in for a surprise in April after incessant complaints for lack of HD channels. The software on the STB got upgraded and they got some very good HD channels now : Star World, Star Movies, Star Gold. IPL is also in HD on Max HD. The content is very good and commercial free for now. I would be willing to pay more money for commercial free T.V. Makes my life more enjoyable! Of course, I agree it is expensive but I am always happy with their service and ability to rectify problems fast and professionally.

  12. Pragith says:

    We have done the same (sharing connection within family) with permission from tatasky. Infact we even took advice from them on how to give which box and who will do payment. To be a little more descriptive, my uncle has taken 2 boxes abroad too and came back with one, and using it in my other uncle’s house. Confused? I hope not.

    In 1 line, We have been sharing boxes and not change in owner name or repayment of subscription. You just happened to be on line with an incapable tatasky employee.

  1. [...] Tata Sky will not take the old one back in exchange of any discount. What’s worse is that you cannot pass it on to any other customer since the box is in a way “locked” to your account. You can either choose to use it in [...]

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