AT&T’s new Internet-delivered cable TV service, DirecTV Now, has had its share of technical glitches in the early going. Consumers have been complaining about problems such as unavailable video streams, features that don’t work as expected, and incorrect billing.
At a distance, it all sounds like rather typical challenges for an online streaming service that’s been on the market for less than two months, but the complaints are mounting. Tech web site The Verge last week declared the service “a complete mess,” and a reviewer at Techhive said the bugs and glitches had undermined what otherwise could be a strong offering.
This week, reports surfaced that some subscribers had grown so frustrated that they wanted refunds, but AT&T was not giving them their money back. Some early subscribers were told in a chat with customer service reps that “We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds,” TechCrunch reported. Another customer was told “unfortunately my system (doesn’t) have an access to give you the refund.”
AT&T acknowledged some of the problems and said it was making frequent improvements in the DirecTV Now app. “With any new technology there are going to be fixes that need to be made,” the company said in a statement. “While we understand we still have work to do, overall feedback on DirecTV Now has been very positive. We’re continuously updating the app to provide a better experience for customers. We encourage customers to keep the app updated.”
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The issue over refunds is arising because AT&T considers DirecTV Now a prepaid service, the company added. “Since charges are prepaid each month, customers can enjoy the service through the end of the current billing cycle,” AT&T said. “Refunds are not issued for a partial month.”
AT&T (T) unveiled DirecTV Now in November, offering subscribers access to watch more than 100 cable TV channels over the Internet starting at $35 a month. That starting promotional price has since risen to $60 a month for the 100 channel package, which includes both live feeds of the broadcasts and some on-demand content. Subscribers can watch on a computer, an app on their phone or tablet, or via a set-top box like Apple TV.
It’s still early days for DirecTV Now, and there’s plenty of time to address the errors and improve the customer service experience. T-Mobile’s super-popular weekly giveaway rewards program also got off to a bumpy start, but resolved the problems and grew even more popular.
And it’s not as though AT&T is competing against a number of powerful and mature competitors in the market of online cable TV replacement services. Neither Sony’s (SNE) Vue or Dish Network’s (DISH) Sling have taken the world by storm and rumored services from big tech companies like Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOGL) have yet to materialize.
Still, Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch has taken to Twitter in a manner reminiscent of T-Mobile (TMUS) CEO John Legere. Lynch has been responding to tweets complaining about DirecTV Now with nudges to try his Sling service.
That strategy seems to have worked well for Legere, whose company has drawn more new phone customers than AT&T for several years running. Whether it will succeed in the more nascent market for Internet cable TV service remains unknown.