AT&T is accused of running fake schemes and using shady tactics to inflate DIRECTV NOW subscriber numbers.
The claims are part of a lawsuit accusing AT&T of fraud by investors.
The accusations suggest AT&T management was involved and approved measures to intentionally defraud investors. These measures then trickled down the company resulting in actions by customer-facing employees.
Fake DIRECTV NOW subscribers
One of the most troubling claims is that AT&T was signing real subscribers up to fake accounts. Apparently, AT&T would take real subscriber phone numbers and add them to fake accounts. AT&T would then bill those subscribers for the fake accounts.
The fake accounts were also linked to fake email addresses. This was designed to limit real subscribers discovering the fake subscriptions, according to the suit.
The claims suggest one phone number and credit card was routinely linked to three DIRECTV NOW subscriptions.
Fraudulently charging AT&T customers for DIRECTV NOW
It's not unheard of for a company to incorrectly charge a customer, although this is usually just an error. In this case, the suit states AT&T was acting intentionally. According to the claims, the fraudulent activity was not limited to existing subscribers either. AT&T customers who did not want DIRECTV NOW were signed up and billed anyway.
In other instances, customers were charged for DIRECTV NOW, but told the charge was for something else. While some AT&T customers were told DIRECTV NOW was already part of their bundle, when it wasn't. Those customers were then charged for the additional service.
Again, while mistakes happen, this claim specifically argues these were not mistakes. They were intentional actions designed to artificially inflate subscriber numbers.
The DIRECTV NOW subscriber game
DIRECTV NOW experienced high levels of subscriber growth following AT&T's purchase of DIRECTV. For a long time, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV were the runaway leaders in the live TV streaming sector.
The suit says this is the reason AT&T was doing what it's now accused of. Arguing, the company wanted to project DIRECTV NOW as more valuable than it really was. Specifically, to investors.
This is where the lawsuit comes in. It has been spearheaded by a group of investors who claim they were lied to by AT&T.
Throughout 2019, DIRECTV NOW subscriber numbers have declined dramatically. AT&T explained this is to be expected and part of a 'customer cleanup' process.
DIRECTV NOW was recently rebranded as AT&T TV NOW.
AT&T has since denied the claims.