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Watchdog: Oct. 7, 2012

George Gombossy

Publication: The Day

Published October 07. 2012 4:00AM

John Christophy purchased a new VW in 2008 which, like most new cars, came with a three-month free subscription to Sirius.

Christophy, who lives in eastern Connecticut, liked listening to the satellite radio so when the three months ended, he signed up for a year and paid in advance.

He then ended his subscription, but not as far as Sirius was concerned.

Christophy is one of thousands of SiriusXM (now jointly owned) customers who have fallen victim to customer service that many kindly call sloppy, others call fraudulent.

The Better Business Bureau, which still gives the New York City-based company an A+ rating, says it has received 7,685 complaints against the company in the past three years.

From Sept. 20-27, the BBB received 48 complaints against SiriusXM.

"Complaints filed with the BBB allege that this firm has overcharged consumer's accounts and incorrectly billed consumers for various services. Consumers report having difficulty resolving these problems with customer service," the BBB said on its site.

I wonder what the company has to do to receive an F rating.

The Connecticut Attorney General's office has received 109 complaints in the past year, of which it says only about 40 percent have been resolved.

"The Office of the Attorney General continues to participate in a multistate investigation into SiriusXM's business practices. The investigation remains active and ongoing," Attorney General spokeswoman Susan Kinsman said Friday.

Connecticut, Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont and the District of Columbia launched their joint investigation in 2010.

The disclosure of the investigation was made by SiriusXM in financial filings that said the investigation was focusing on "certain of our consumer practices. The investigation focuses on our practices relating to the cancellation of subscriptions; automatic renewal of subscriptions; charging, billing, collecting, and refunding or crediting of payments from consumers; and soliciting customers."

The company also disclosed then that a "separate investigation into our consumer-related practices is being conducted by the Attorney General of the State of Florida. In addition, in September 2010, the Attorney General of the State of Missouri commenced an action against us regarding our telemarketing practices to residents of the State of Missouri."

Christophy complained to me that he recently started receiving telephone calls from the company informing him that his subscription is still active and he must pay his $186 tab.

"I never authorized them to re-activate the radio," he wrote me. "They do not have a valid card number for me. I want to have them stop calling me and cancel the activation that I never authorized. I do not think that I should have to argue about this with them with their customer service staff."

I contacted Patrick Reilly, Senior Vice President, Communications SiriusXM, who in the past had corrected all the issues of customers I had sent him, and he asked his customer service department to look into the complaint.

Within 24 hours Christophy received a phone call from the company, agreeing to correct his account.

Christophy's account was cleared and he was offered either $25 for a half-year service or one year at half price.

Reilly declined to comment on the complaints against his company, but said he would have any complaint I received investigated.

"We attempt to comply with all federal and state consumer laws, including laws applicable to billing continuous subscriptions. Subscribers are the lifeblood of our business. We also make considerable efforts to address complaints and concerns of our subscribers," he had said previously on other consumer complaint issues.

If you are being improperly charged by XM or Sirius let me know and we will take Reilly up on his commitment to handle consumer complaints.

You can reach The Watchdog at george@ctwatchdog.com and www.ctwatchdog.com.

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