September 26, 2009

Sirius XM Satellite Radio Quietly Slips Added Charges onto Credit Cards

Greetings. If you're a monthly subscriber to Sirius XM satellite radio, have you been keeping a close watch on your credit card statements lately? If not, go grab the last few months of statements and compare the charges coming through for the service.

Due to their billing cycles, the charges for two months of Sirius XM service may appear as line items on a single month's credit card billings, but the fun part that you may not have noticed is that monthly charges suddenly rose from $12.95 per month to $14.95, an increase of around 15%.

What's that? You don't remember being notified that this change was coming or that it had occurred?

You're not alone. According to Sirius XM representatives that I spoke with today, the additional 15% charge is for music copyrights, and, uh, the company apparently decided not to bother notifying most customers in any way.

Were any customers notified at all? Yeah, apparently "invoiced" customers, presumably business subscribers, were honored with the news of this increase. But at least according to my conversations today with the Sirius XM folks, nobody else was directly and individually clued in.

Is it a valid excuse to claim that no notification was required, since these were "pass-through" charges going to pay copyright royalties? Ridiculous. Of course not!

The technical term I would typically apply to this behavior is "crooked" -- nothing less. Were any laws actually broken by Sirius XM based on their reported actions? I'll leave that for the lawyers in the readership to decide.

In the meantime, I'm pretty disgusted with Sirius XM. I was concerned that the XM/Sirius merger would lead to higher rates and lower service, but I wasn't expecting "secret" credit card charge increases.

I can stream virtually unlimited Internet radio stations through my G1 phone, and relatively inexpensive stand-alone Internet radio appliances are now widely available. Maybe it's finally time for a mass ditching of Sirius XM and a sentimental wave goodbye at their satellites.

It's not so much the $2/month, or the differences between monthly and annual payment plans. There's an important principle at work here. Sirius XM has e-mail addresses, physical addresses, and phone numbers for the vast majority of their subscribers. Warning all subscribers in advance that the charges were increasing would have been technically very straightforward.

For some reason, at least from what I've been able to learn today, Sirius XM chose not to act honorably in this matter. I'd be more than happy to hear of extenuating circumstances or different spins on the story, but for now, as far as I'm concerned, Sirius XM has completely lost my trust.


Blog Update (September 29, 2009): Sirius XM Credit Card Abuse? The Saga Continues!

Posted by Lauren at September 26, 2009 09:23 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein