Tata Sky’s Forced Hardware Upgrades, and Making the Customer Pay for It

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My very first Tata Sky set-top-box

Tata Sky is one of the largest and most popular DTH operators in India. I have been a Tata Sky customer for almost a decade now, having used their product and services since 2007. I did switch to Airtel DTH for about a year some time in 2009, but switched back to Tata Sky for their HD services.

I currently have two Tata Sky boxes at home — the primary one is a HD DVR (Recorder) while the secondary one is a normal HD box. Both these connections have an active subscription valid till 30th March, 2017.

Generally speaking, I’ve had a delightful experience as a customer. Well, at least up until December 2016. Here’s a story of what happened, and why I don’t recommend Tata Sky to anyone any more.

TL;DR: Tata Sky forcefully pushed a software update that prohibited me from using services I had already paid for, insisted that the only way to fix the issue was to replace certain hardware and then charged me Rs. 800 for it.

It was the last week of December 2016 and everyone in the family had been enjoying their favorite Marathi shows on the TV, as they had been for the last several years.

One fine morning, the primary Tata Sky STB (set-top-box) in the living room was displaying a message on the screen that new software was being downloaded. There is no way to dismiss this message, no way to minimize it, or hide it temporarily. The message covers 90% of the screen, so you simply cannot watch TV while this is happening. Tata Sky occasionally pushes out software updates, but there’s no way to schedule these or manually request them.

Tata Sky forces these software updates onto the user as and when they deem fit.

Now, the problem was that the message on screen had a progress bar that was stuck. It hadn’t moved for over four hours. I called up the Tata Sky helpline and the executive at the other end advised me to power off the STB and turn it back on, and that it would be fine after that. I followed her steps and the STB was back up, all the channels were working fine and I could watch TV again. On the other hand, in the bedroom, the secondary STB had been working just fine with no issues.

Unfortunately, 20–30 minutes later, the message on the screen returned. New software was being downloaded again, said the message. Except it wasn’t. The message was stuck, there was no movement on the progress bar. I called up the helpline, explained to the executive that I had just called them a while back and he readily took down a complaint for me, notifying me that an engineer visit had been arranged in the evening.

The engineer didn’t show up until 7PM that day, way past dark. The Tata Sky dish is installed on the building’s terrace, so it was going to be difficult for him to troubleshoot the issue if it came to that. The engineer pressed a few buttons on the remote and concluded that the issue might be near the dish, and headed up to the terrace. I accompanied him up there.

The engineer spent about 30–45 minutes there troubleshooting the issue, and when he came back down, concluded that there was an issue with the “LNB”, which he has replaced with a “Super LNB” and that I’ll be charged INR 900 for it.

I was a little taken aback by this, because not only did the engineer not inform me of any charges before the hardware was replaced, it was preposterous that it was charging me for it.

Tata Sky was charging me for an issue that did not exist till they pushed the software update that I had no control over.

I explained to the engineer that before the software update download attempt, both the boxes were working fine and still were, if you restarted the box. However, the engineer insisted that it was the LNB’s fault and that with the new one in place, I wouldn’t have any issues.

Which is understandable, but I did not see why I would be the one paying for it.

Essentially, Tata Sky tried to deliver a new software update, but couldn’t, so they replaced a hardware component in order to deliver that software update, and then wanted to charge me Rs. 900 for it.

I mentioned to the Tata Sky engineer that I did not want the new software or the new hardware. All I wanted was to watch my TV, that I had already paid for, and should be able to watch till March 30th, 2017. So he should do whatever it was and restore my connection in a working state.

The engineer said OK and headed back to the terrace to replace the newly fitted “Super LNB” with the old “LNB” I had and returned 10 minutes later claiming that the old LNB was no longer working as intended. One out of two of the signal outputs on the LNB was no longer working, so it was not possible to receive signals in both my STBs. A temporary workaround, he said, was to use a “splitter” at the signal output that worked, but this would mean signal deterioration and could affect signal/channel quality. Obviously, this wasn’t acceptable to me.

It was around 10PM by now and the engineer claimed that he lived all the way in Govandi, so I should make a decision quick so that he can head home. He also claimed that the only possible fix to the issue was to install the Super LNB.

Here’s where I made a mistake that I now kinda regret: With no alternative, since this was the only way to fix the connection, I told him to go ahead with the installation of the Super LNB so he could go head and that I’d deal with Tata Sky’s helpline later.

The next day, I raised another complaint explaining what had happened and why I was being wrongly charged for it. Tata Sky promised a call back. I received a call back, not from Tata Sky, but instead from the third-party agency from Worli that had sent the engineer. They claimed that the charge was valid because I had signed on the work order before the engineer left. To this, I explained that I wasn’t disputing whether I had signed the form or not. All I wanted was a clarification why I, the customer, was to pay for hardware that I didn’t need, so Tata Sky could deliver software I didn’t ask for. Yet, all the executive was concerned about was that I had signed the form, so the charge was valid.

I raised a complaint via Twitter yet again, explaining to Tata Sky what had happened so far. A few hours later, on January 1st sometime in the afternoon, I received a call from the same guy, with the engineer on a conference call. The three of us discussed what happened, including a discussion about how the engineer failed to inform me of the charge before the hardware was replaced. However, in the end, the service agency guy concluded that the charge was still valid as I had signed the form before he left.

I had to raise a complaint yet again, and this time, someone from the escalations department got in touch with me. This was the most frustrating call of this entire episode so far. The caller insisted that:

  1. He had spoken to the engineer who had claimed that I was informed of the charges before the hardware was replaced. (Not true)
  2. The hardware is customer’s responsibility, so any replacements done to the hardware are to be born by the customer.

For the first point, I asked him to get the engineer on the phone, but he insisted that it was not possible. Moreover, the called refused to believe me, insisting that only what the engineer said was true.

Tata Sky’s escalations department executive refused to believe me, instead claiming the Tata Sky engineer was telling the truth and he’d believe only that.

I was extremely frustrated at this point, and no matter how much I was trying to explain my concern, all Tata Sky was concerned about was that hardware was replaced, so customer should be charged. That’s their policy and they’re sticking to that.

Here’s a gist of the story:

  1. Both my Tata Sky STBs and related services were working fine.
  2. Tata Sky forcefully tried to deliver a software update I did not ask for.
  3. Tata Sky forcefully replaced hardware that I did not want.
  4. Tata Sky engineer claimed that the only way to fix the non-existant issue was to replace the hardware.
  5. Tata Sky engineer refused to re-install the old hardware claiming it was no longer working. How did it stop working within minutes? Your guess is as good as mine.
  6. Tata Sky automatically deducted Rs. 800 from my account for this.
I know, I know, it’s the other way around.

I was a perfectly happy customer, but this experience has left a permanent scar — all for Rs. 800.

At this point, my account has negative balance of about Rs. 7xx and I won’t be renewing my subscription beyond March 30th, 2017.

Additional Notes:

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