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Make sure you're not being fleeced on your digital TV packages

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There is increasing evidence that male and female brains are wired differently

There is increasing evidence that male and female brains are wired differently

There is increasing evidence that male and female brains are wired differently

It's almost two years since the digital switchover took place - forcing everyone who hadn't already done so at that stage to give up their old TV and get a digital one.

Whether you changed over at that time or not, it is worthwhile poring over your bank statements to make sure any TV subscription you signed up for is not costing you more than it should.

Overcharging triggers most of the complaints the consumer watchdog European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC) receives about digital TV, according to Grace Duffy, dispute resolution adviser with ECC Ireland. "This can be due to accounts not being closed properly or services not being made available," said Ms Duffy.

In one case, an elderly woman was overcharged about €1,300 after she was charged twice for the same account for four years. The woman had moved house and asked that the digital TV company move her existing account to her new address. Four years later, she became ill and was moved into a nursing home. Her family noticed that two direct debits were coming from her bank account each month - one for the digital TV account which she had transferred from her old address, and the second for a new account from her new address, which she had not requested.

When the family contacted the company to request a refund, the company offered €650 - only half of what the woman had been overcharged. When the family requested that their mother be refunded in full, the company said that the money was being withheld because the overcharging should have been pointed out sooner. The family then contacted ECC Ireland who secured a refund of about €1,090.

In another case, an Irish couple were overcharged €770 after they upgraded their digital TV package. The salesman said the couple would be able to get a discount on their new package if they closed their existing account - and he offered to close the account on their behalf. However, when checking their bank statements two years later, the couple realised they were still paying the same subscription, even though the satellite box for the original account had been disconnected in 2011. The salesman had failed to cancel the couple's account as he had promised and the couple had been overcharged about €770.

Consumers are also running into problems when switching to a new digital TV company, judging by the typical queries received by another consumer watchdog, the National Consumer Agency (NCA). Consumers have rung the NCA to enquire about digital TV contract terms, cancellation and switching policies, price increases, and changes in package offerings, according to a spokesman.

It's important to know where your stand with your digital TVprovider.

It is largely your contract which sets out your rights and obligations when it comes to billing and cancellations. You also have rights under consumer law. "It is important to read any small print or terms and conditions that may apply to a digital TV subscription, and to make sure you are aware of cancellation policies," said Ms Duffy. "The company should provide information on the full cost of the subscription and any additional charges that may apply before the consumer enters into the contract. If it is necessary for the consumer to have certain hardware or software in order to avail of the services offered, the company should make this clear upfront also."

You may be entitled to a refund if your digital TV reception is poor or down for some time. "If there is an interruption to service and the consumer is unable to access their digital TV for a period of time, it may be possible to seek a partial reimbursement," said Ms Duffy.

Be careful about switching - it might not be as straightforward as you expect. To avoid being billed twice for digital TV when switching or getting an upgrade, make sure to close your old account.

"Remember that you will need to cancel any existing contract that you have if you decide to change providers," said the NCA spokesman. "Check the terms and conditions of your contract to see how you go about doing this. Pay particular attention to any notice period that might be required when cancelling - and any costs for early cancellation."

Whether you're switching or beginning a new contract, always check the operator's terms and conditions before signing up, advises the NCA. "Check the length of the contract you are signing up to, how long an introductory offers lasts for - and what the price will be after the offer ends. You should also check if you can change your package later on and if so, what the cost is (if any). Remember, bundling services - where you use the same provider for broadband, TV and phone - may be better value."

Should you need to make a complaint, it is best to first contact the digital TV company in writing. "Supply a copy of your bank or card statements if you think you've been overcharged - and ensure to keep a copy of any correspondence for your records," said Ms Duffy.

Should the digital TV company not play ball, you can contact ECC Ireland or the NCA for help. Of course, you could simply forget about your digital TV subscription and invest in the equipment which will allow you to get your TV for free. By buying an Irish and British combo receiver that has Saorview and Freesat, you should be able to get the Irish and British channels for free. You will need an aerial to pick up the Irish channels and a satellite dish for the British channels. You're unlikely to get every channel when you do this and the quality of your TV reception will depend on how good your equipment is.

However, by buying the equipment, you could save hundreds of euro a year in digital TV subscriptions - which could add up to €10,000 over 10 years. You'll also cut out the headaches you might run into with digital TV companies.

Sunday Indo Business