Dish Network has reached an agreement with 46 states' attorneys general to pay nearly $6 million plus restitution to settle allegations of deceptive consumer marketing and a lack of disclosure about costs and service limitations.The states came after Dish after thousands of consumer complaints were lodged.
Consumers with complaints against Dish are eligible for restitution from the settlement if they have filed a complaint with their state's attorney general or Dish Network between Jan. 1, 2004 and July 9, 2009. Complaints eligible for compensation from the settlement will continue to be accepted through Dec. 14 as long as it involves problems that happened over the past two years.
UPDATE: Competitor DirecTV, which draws similar complaints from consumers, was assessed more than $2 million in penalties by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year for alleged telemarketing violations. The BBB also rates DirecTV a "B," after amassing more than 30,000 complaints, explaining the company has been responsive to formal complaints.
Among the complaints filed with the state and the BBB regarding the Dish Network: Dish and its authorized retailers would offer big packages with discounts for a two-year commitment from consumers and then boost the price and/or reduce service. Consumers who then wanted to cancel their service were told they would face hundreds of dollars in cancellation penalties. Dish also was accused of drawing payment from customers' bank accounts and credit cards without proper warning or authorization and violating Do-Not-Call telemarketing laws. Also, customers complained they were not informed that their premium sports packages were subject to blackout and that they might not receive their local TV stations.
"DISH Network's misleading marketing beamed bad deals to thousands of consumers, causing financial hardships for those on limited incomes," Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said "This agreement makes the picture much clearer as to what business practices are acceptable."
McKenna's office cited the example of a senior citizen who had to pay $100 in overdraft fees after Dish drained her bank account.
To settle the cases, Dish agreed to fully disclose the terms and conditions of its contracts with consumers in plain English. In resolving the complaints, Dish, which claims more than 13 million customers of its satellite TV service, admitted no wrongdoing.
"Customer satisfaction has always been a top priority for DISH Network, and we continuously implement new approaches to strengthen our customer relationships," Tom Cullen, executive vice president of DISH Network said in a statement.
The only states not party to the settlement are:California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. Those states did not accept the terms of the settlement. A copy of the settlement can be found here.
For consumers who don't want to accept Dish's restitution offer can appeal to a third-party claims administrator at CEO@dishnetwork.com. Questions may also be sent to that address.