One of the more common complaints we get about cable and satellite providers is that, while customers are held to ironclad contracts that lock them into strict terms lest they pay a penalty, providers too often change their end of the agreement with impunity. Luckily, there are people out there like Consumerist reader Alex, who took Dish Network to court and walked out victorious… when the satellite company was a no-show.
Here’s Alex’s story in his own words:
I signed a 24-month agreement with Dish back last January and everything was going great with them. Until a few months in, they started changing my monthly rate $2/mo more without asking/telling me.
I called them and informed them a contract is a two-way agreement and said if they wouldn’t change it to the rate I agreed to, I would just cancel service with them. They transferred me over to their retention department where the guy asked if I would stay with them if they gave me a $2/month credit. I said well, of course I would, since that would be what I agreed to.
A few months later now, I check my bill in February and see my rate has gone up $5. No explanation, although I notice there is now a notice of “Free Starz!” (Oh boy! A channel I didn’t want for free and all I have to do is pay $5 more). This is on top of that $2 increase a few months earlier (though the $2 credit was still applied).
I call them and go through the same spiel, only this time they seem to be less understanding and immediately, without even needing to consult anyone, inform me the exact wording in their agreement which states they “reserve the right to change rates at any time” and if I decide to cancel I will pay an early termination fee.
I tell them I will not pay their new rate and I will cancel and they went ahead and immediately shut it off. Then they informed me I owe them $165 for early termination and it would automatically be charged to the credit card that I last used to pay my bill.
Now livid, I told them not only was I not going to pay their late fee, I was NOT, nor did I ever, give them consent to automatically charge my credit card and if they attempted to do so I would make sure my bank did not let the charge clear. Immediately after this call, I called my bank and had them reissue me a new card.
After constantly writing them and demanding the refund for the last month of service I paid for but did not get, they refused and just said “I’m sorry, this is our policy and we will be charging you the difference of the early termination fee and the credit on your account.” I finally gave up arguing with them and decided to take them to small claims.
Alex may or may not have been able to convince a judge that he deserved to win, but we’ll never know since no one from Dish ever bothered to show up. Thus, the judge ruled in Alex’s favor.
Has anyone else out there had success with suing a large company in small claims court?