UPDATE: Dish Charges You Extra For Not Having A Phone

Dee writes in with an update to her letter posted under Dish Charges You Extra For Not Having A Phone. Of special note: plugging in a phone to the dead line will not help her situation…

“Wow, thanks for all the help! Thanks for the posting, Consumerist….I love this site. I do have autopay on my DISH bill (which STILL shows my account delinquent on their website….go figure) and receive a paper bill via USPS.

Mysteriously, the amount removed from my account this month was around $15 less than shown on the paper statement. I can only guess since I cannot access my account online, that they have eliminated the $5 access fee as well as $10 from the sign-up discount which is another story. You receive a $100 discount for signing up, given in $10 increments removed from your monthly programming. I sent the required paperwork in along with a copy of my first statement but got it all back because I didn’t include a copy of the BACK side of the statement. Like I said, I’m only guessing that’s the rest of the difference. As I find out, I’ll let you know. And no, just plugging in a dead phone line doesn’t get it…”

We’ve sent Dee a comments invite in case she wants to join the conversation more directly.

— BEN POPKEN

Previously: Dish Charges You Extra For Not Having A Phone

Comments

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  1. raindog says:

    Like many people, I have VOIP service (no phone jacks except the one in the router, which I know won’t work with fax machines so I’m guessing it wouldn’t work with Dish either.) I also know numerous people who have cell phones but no land lines, so this probably affects quite a few people in total.

    What I’m wondering is how the Dish receiver even works without reporting back to the mother ship every day, and why they don’t just have an ethernet jack or wireless connection in addition to the modem. It seems to me that if the receiver can operate without phoning home, that fee isn’t an “access fee” at all but a “charge you extra for not being able to order pay-per-view” fee.

    How does DirecTV deal with these issues?

  2. Echodork says:

    I worked tech support for DISH for a year or two back in college, maybe I can shed some light on this. The “Echo” in my screen name refers to Echostar :P

    When you order Pay Per View, the information for your purchase is stored on your receiver’s Smart Card. Every so often, your receiver will make a ninja-call back to DISH headquarters to report your PPV purchases so you can be billed. Ever wonder why sometimes PPV purchases show up a month or two after you made them? That’s why.

    If you don’t have a phone line installed, what happens? Ha-HA! You can order PPV and not pay for it. This was a HUGE problem for DISH when I worked there, and they played all kinds of tricks (free PPV mostly) to try to get people to plug the phone line into the receiver so they could bill the PPV purchases. It seems they have finally hit on the perfect solution… if you don’t have a phone line plugged in, and thus cannot accurately report your PPV purchase history, they’ll just go ahead and charge you an extraneous fee so they get paid anyway. And then, of course, if you ever DO plug a phone line in to avoid the charges… you’ll get hit for any PPV you’ve ever order that never made it to your bill.

    I have a DirecTV box right now (suck it, DISH), and they play the same trick. My receiver hasn’t called home in two years, and nothing has happened other than a daily reminder that my receiver will cease functioning unless I let it call home.

  3. matthew_k says:

    The reason for this fee is not PPV, but preventing you from signing up two locations for the price of one. If the top package costs $80 a month, you and your friend can sign up, and each pay $42.50. Four friends can each pay $25, and so on. To prevent this, the box dials the 800 number, and the CID information is logged (even if it’s blocked… 800 numbers always get it “for accounting purposes”)

    They will let you have one in your RV, but you have to send in a copy of the pink slip to prove you actually own one. They may still charge an extra fee of some sort.

  4. adamondi says:

    PPV can bite me. That is what my Blockbuster Online account is for. I get all the rental movies I want that way, and for far less than PPV would cost.

    I am glad to know that both Dish and DirecTV are being jerks about not having a land line, though. I don’t have a land line, so I will not be switching from Cable any time soon.

  5. Terrelowens says:

    I don’t personally have Dish or DirecTV but my parents do. As a matter of fact, my father has the Dish network with Tivo brand DVR and he doesn’t have to hook it to a phone line at all. They don’t charge him extra and he gets billed for his PPV choices. I don’t know the specifics but he lives in a remote area and they did not have a local phone number for him to call. He was getting billed long distance for the daily/weekly (whatever) call that it makes. He complained about that and “poof” the problem was solved and no more phone calls were needed………..

    I realize that living in a remote area may have something to do with it but if it’s possible for one customer it should be possible for all no?

  6. dewrock says:

    Hi, let me shed some light on this. I worked for Dish for a 1 1/2 years as Tech Support. This programming access fee is not being charged to you because you don’t have a phone line. The only time you will see this type of fee is if you have a dual tuner reciever(322, 522, 625, 942, etc). It’s the access fee for second tuner in order for it to get your programming. Anytime you have more than one receiver on your account you pay an additional outlet fee of $5.00(the 1st receiver is included in the rate of whatever package you have). Everyone gets the $5.00 additonal outlet fee, everyone. In your case, since you have a dual tuner receiver you have an opportunity that other customers with only single tuners don’t have. You can connect a phone line to your dual tuner and have this additional outlet/programming access fee waived. No one is being scammed here or being charged for not having a land line.

    Now like others have said there are other perks of having a phone line connected, such as ordering PPVs, upgrading programming, paying your bill, thru the remote, etc. But on DISH’s end, it’s also a security measure. By having a phone line connected, the receiver will dial out to DISH periodically throughout the month. This will tell us exactly how PPVs are ordered making it harder to dispute those, even though DISH does not refund PPVs. It’s also to prevent Account Packing which is where people will have multiple receivers on an account but also have them in multiple locations(different houses).

    Now while you should always be told this when starting/upgrading service by a CSR/TSR, even if you’re not you still sign a service agreement that clearly states info about this fee. If you sign something without reading it then that is your problem. To be fair though, DISH could do a better job about educating customers about this fee. When customers have say two single tuner receivers, the fee shows up as an “additional outlet” fee…and there’s usually no calls/complaints about it. But when customers have a dual tuner on their account, the fee shows up as a “programming access” fee and the customer doesn’t understand this…especially when they see the message on their television about connecting a phone line to avoid the charge. Believe me when I worked there we would get about ten of these calls per night and I used to dread them because people are never satisfied with the explanation and keep contending that they are being charged for not having a land line when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Sorry this was a little long, I hope it clears up some confusion.

    Later,
    Dewrock

  7. Deeco says:

    Perfect explanation, dewrock…I understand what you’re saying and it seems to agree with the broken english explanation I got on the phone the other night. And you’re correct, DISH failed miserably in explaining the charge to me. After getting my most recent explanation, I couldn’t wait for tech support…I figure my best solution here is to hook up another tv because as you said, that’s what the charge is for basically. Is there anything special I need to know to do that or turn on? I tried for several hours today to no avail. I followed the instructions. Do I need to TELL them to turn this feature on or what? I hooked up the connection (i think) according to directions. I really appreciate your help and taking time to explain what DISH could not.

  8. dewrock says:

    To Deeco…


    Do you have a dual tuner(322, 522, 625, etc)? If so you’re going to want to make sure that you have two cables coming into the house from the dish or one cable going into a separator(it will say DPP Separator on it). From there make sure those two cables are going into Sat In 1 and 2 on the back of the receiver. This sends receiver two satellite signals. Now you’ll have one cable coming from CH 3/4 out on the back of the receiver(there’s a green 1 near it), this goes to your first tv(whether it’s coax, RCA, optical cable, whatever). Then you have a port on the receiver near the blue 2 that says tv ch21-69 out. You connect from there(coax, rca, optical, whatever)to a second tv. Your tv’s going to be in either cable or air mode and your receiver is going to be defaulted for the 2nd tv to be on ch 60. Put the tv on that and if the picture comes thru then you’re in business, if not try channel 110…which is the cable mode counterpart of ch 60. If that doesn’t work go into the receiver menu and press 6 1 5 on the remote and it takes you where you can change what channel tv2 needs to be set on and you can try different channels from there(make sure to then match the tv to what you set the receiver to).

    Hope this is helpful.

    Later

  9. joelmole says:

    dewrock:

    Thanks for the informative post. Unfortunately, the problem I have is that I’d like to upgrade to the HD DVR receiver, but it is only available as a dual tuner model. I have no desire for the second (standard definition, BTW) tuner, but I don’t have a land line in my house to allow Dish Network to know I am not using the second tuner.

    Though you say Dish Network does not have bad intentions with the additional outlet fee, it seems likely to me that the only reason they bundle a second tuner into their top of the line receiver is so they only have to ship out a single box to dual TV households, which is a measure to decrease hardware costs on their end. The fact that this causes unwarranted burden on customers who don’t care for the second tuner, but don’t have a a land line is very unfriendly.

    It’s certainly giving me pause on the thought of upgrading to a DVR model. I’m looking at a $199 one time fee for the receiver, $6/month leasing fee for the receiver, $6/month for the DVR service (face it, this doesn’t cost them anything, it’s just a fee for the perceived value of the service), and $5/month for the un-needed second tuner.

    More than anything it just feels like they’re gouging the early adopters. Eventually HD will not be a “premium”, but will be the standard and hopefully the prices will drop, though I expect the DVR service fees will remain forever.