Dish Charges You Extra For Not Having A Phone

Dish Network is charging Dee a $5 “programming access fee” because she doesn’t have a phone line.

When she emailed customer service to ask how to get the fee removed, Dish told her she could get a phone line installed.

Great idea! Spend $35 to save $5!

Correspondence inside…


    Sent: Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:10 PM

    To: FeedBack

    Subject: Billing,

    Full Name: Dee

    Account Number:

    Question: 1. What is the $5 programming access fee shown on my latest bill?

    2. Why does my account always show that it is delinquent on the website?I just want to pass along one of DISH network’s added charges.

    —-Original Message Follows—-



    Subject: RE: Billing,

    Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 20:48:15 -0700

    Dear Dee ,

    Thank you for your email. The programming access fee is for not having a phone line connected to the receiver. Concerning the delinquent message online please disregard.

    As a current customer, you may also use our website to view your current or previous billing statements, add services, or make payments to your account. Please use the link to visit our Online Customer Support Center.

    Your business is greatly appreciated and we thank you for allowing us to be of assistance to you. If you have any further questions or concerns, please refer to or reply to this email.


    Nicholas P.


    DISH Network eCare

    From: Dee
    Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 3:46 PM
    To: FeedBack
    Subject: RE: Billing,

    I obviously missed that somewhere in the fine print. What can I do to have that charge removed other than to have a land line telephone installed? I think its outrageous that I am being penalized for NOT having a land line telephone. Please advise me of my options.

    Subject: RE: Billing,
    Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 14:45:42 -0700

    Dear Dee ,

    Thank you for your email. Concerning the phone line if you have one available you will not be charged the $5.00 access fee.

    As a current customer, you may also use our website to view your current or previous billing statements, add services, or make payments to your account. Please use the link to visit our Online Customer Support Center.

    Your business is greatly appreciated and we thank you for allowing us to be of assistance to you. If you have any further questions or concerns, please refer to or reply to this email.


    Nicholas P.


    DISH Network eCare”



Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    To me this issue isn’t closed. WHERE in the fine print does it say that if you have no phone line that you’ll be assessed a $5 fee? If its not there then you don’t pay. If the contract says you MUST have a phoneline to have service then you probably have to pay but I wouldn’t let it end unless you’ve seen this fee written in your contract.

  2. Vinny says:

    From the Dish agreement:

    F. Additional Tuners and Receivers. We may allow you to place additional receivers on your account in our sole discretion. Each additional receiver will be authorized to receive the same Services as your initial receiver. This option is only available if your initial DISH Network receiver and all additional receiver(s) are located at the same residence and are continuously connected to your same land-based telephone line. Unless otherwise specified in the customer agreement(s), if any, applicable to the promotion(s) pursuant to which you are receiving Services and/or Equipment, DISH Network will charge you a monthly additional outlet programming access fee (“Additional Outlet Programming Access Fee”) for each tuner activated on your account beyond the first. If you desire to receive Services at two different residential locations, you must open a separate account for each location. You agree that you will not directly or indirectly use a single account for the purpose of authorizing Services for multiple DISH Network receivers that are not all located in the same residence and connected to your same land-based telephone line. If we later determine that you did, we may disconnect your Services and, in addition to all other applicable fees, you agree to pay us the difference between the amounts actually received by us and the full retail price for the Services authorized for each DISH Network receiver on your account.

    Doesn’t make it any less scummy, but at least they set it out in the print that normal people don’t read. Of course it would be better if they said it up front…

    Although you could technically read that as phone line only being required for “additional” boxes, seeing as it doesn’t set that out as a requirement for service…

    Here’s the agreement.

  3. K-T says:

    When I got my Dish installed, they told me at least a dozen times that there is an extra five dollar fee if I do not have the cable box connected to a phone line. The person I ordered the system from told me that, and so did the two guys who installed the dish. When they were putting the boxes in my house they asked about the phone jack because they said I needed it to avoid the fee. I got this from the Dish Network web site:

    ” E. In addition to (and without limitation of) any amounts due for your Services and any other amounts due pursuant to any customer agreement(s) pursuant to which you are receiving Services and/or Equipment, you agree to pay the fees referenced below (“Fees”) if and when applicable. DISH Network reserves the right to change these Fees, increase these Fees or add additional Fees at any time and from time to time, in our sole discretion upon notice to you.

    Additional Outlet Programming Access Fee (monthly, per each tuner after first): $4.99
    DISH Network DVR Service Fee (monthly, per Digital Video Recording receiver): $4.98
    Equipment Rental Fee (monthly, per leased receiver) $5.00
    Late Payment Fee: $5.00
    Live Operator Payment Fee: $5.00
    Offset Fee: $2.00
    Overnight Delivery Fee: $18.00
    Pay-Per-View Automated Fee: $1.00
    Pay-Per-View Live Operator Fee: $5.00
    Restart Fee: $25.00
    Returned Payment Fee: $10.00
    Service Access Fee (monthly): $5.00
    Smart Card Replacement Fee: $50.00
    Transaction Fee: $5.00″

    More likely than not the service access fee listed above is the same programming fee you have a problem with. They probably waive the fee if you are connected to a phone line because that is how you would order Pay-Per-View, and you are probably more likely to spend the money on movies if you don’t have to call them and jump through hoops. It realyl works for you in the long run.

  4. Mike_ says:

    I had to pay this fee when I had a dual-tuner DVR from Dish Network (and no home phone line), but I was under the impression there was no such fee for a single-tuner device if it was the only receiver in the house. If that’s the case, this might be more about discouraging account sharing than PPV. If your receiver doesn’t phone home, they have no way of knowing if you sent your extra receivers to friends and split the bill. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

  5. Vinny says:

    It only works for you if you order Pay Per View.

  6. cooper says:

    I’m confused on this one — does Dee not have a phone line installed that the box can be connected to or is the phone line there but not activated? We have Dish and no active land line, but no additional fee.

  7. Lesley says:

    When I had DirecTV installed at my old house, the installer said he could not leave my house unless the box was connected to a phone line. He explained that the official reason was so that the receiver could get important updates but that in reality, the only use for the phone line was to order pay-per-view. After he left, I disconnected it and never reconnected it in four years and never had a problem. It’s utter bullshit on their part, but remember that the dish companies are in cahoots with the phone companies–a united front against the cable companies.

  8. Hawkins says:

    From the contract text, it does seem that Mike_ is right: the Dish-Man wants you to be able to have two Dish-TVs in your house, but doesn’t want you to give the second receiver to your cousin Ramon.

    The simplest way to make sure that you’re using both receivers in the same house is to make you plug them both into the same phone line.

    This doesn’t seem all that evil to me. In fact, when one uses the Evilometer to compare Dish Network to competitors like Comcast, Dish Network barely moves the needle.

  9. Amy Alkon says:

    If your Dish is not plugged into a phone receiver, it somehow knows and tells you onscreen you have to do it to avoid the $5/month charge.

  10. cooper says:

    Am I alone here in not seeing the big deal in just plugging the damn thing into the phone jack? Save yourself $5 — you apparently don’t have to actually have a paid-for line to do this.

  11. zentec says:

    I went through this with DirecTV because I have VoIP and the modem in the receiver doesn’t work so well with that.

    DirecTV will not charge you a fee, but they disable all pay-per-view unless you purchase on the web or via telephone. The complaintant might want to call Dish and tell them to disable PPV and see if that eliminates the $5 charge. If not, I’d mention that is exactly how DirecTV handles the situation and when the contract is up, so is Dish.

    Satellite companies have become as scummy and dirty as cable companies.

  12. Falconfire says:

    Am I alone here in not seeing the big deal in just plugging the damn thing into the phone jack? Save yourself $5 — you apparently don’t have to actually have a paid-for line to do this.

    man people dont HAVE phone lines near their TVs. If I where to do this I would half to string a phone line halfway across the room just for a service (PPV) that I would never use.

  13. Ben Popken says:

    This is from Dee’s original email:

    I just want to pass along one of DISH network’s added charges. I have cable internet and a cell phone so I have no need for a land line telephone….I guess I could have one installed and pay $35 or more per month so as not to have to pay the below mentioned “programming access fee” of $5…..what a scam.

  14. I have a dual tuner/dvr in my dining room and it serves the television in the basment as well. The closest phone jack is about 15 feet away. I had to run a phone line up the wall, around the patio door, across the floor and to the dvr so I could avoid that stupid message about the fee.

    I don’t remember if anyone mentioned it to me before hand. I do know that once my dsl was set up I had to put a filter on that line because the box seems to make a connection at a predetermined time for something.

  15. cooper says:

    Ben, you might pass along to Dee (if she is not reading this, which I suppose she is) that you don’t have to activate the land line to hook the Dish box up to it. So, no $35/month OR $5/month if it’s conveniently enough located for her to plug in. I’ve had Dish for over a year and have only used cell during that time — never had any fee added to my bill.

  16. MrEleganza says:

    I have directv, and they don’t charge you for not having a land line. That said, for a period of time when the Directv wasn’t hooked to a phone line, I would get messages on the Tivo/Directv box that they haven’t been able to connect with a phone line for X# of days, and therefore, were not able to update program listings and know when to record stuff we had set to TIVO. Soon, the TV listings were just available for a couple days in advance. So (again, in my experience) the purpose of the box dialing in is greater than just Pay-per-view reasons.

    So I guess I’m not as outraged by this as other Consumerist complaints, if only because I get the relevance of a phone line to the dish process.

  17. misterelectric says:

    We had Dish Network years ago and no land line (cell phone and cable modem only), and it was no problem. No extra monthly fees, no pop-up notices on the screen, nothing. We were even able to order a PPV movie. The receiver wasn’t able to dial home over night and upload our purchase, however, and it wouldn’t let us order any more PPV movies after that. No big deal.

    Fast forward to now, and we are back with Dish Network in our new house, and with the newest DVR receiver. When we were having it installed, we told the guy not to worry about hooking up the phone line since there was no jack near the TV. We told him that we would have a phone jack installed separately, but we were really planning on just leaving the phone disconnected like before. The newer line of receivers, however, actually tests to see if it is connected to a phone line, and warns you that you will be charged extra if it detects that it is not connected. I don’t think you can fool it by just plugging it in to a jack that is not activated, I think it actually dials an 800 number, or at least listens for dial tone. I had to run a phone jack to the TV area to avoid that.

    From what I understand, the phone line is only for dialing in (nightly?) to upload PPV purchases, and any programming changes made from the remote. All TV listings are sent via satellite signal.

    So some posters here may be talking about what their older style Dish receivers are doing, and some are describing what their newer Dish receivers are doing.

    A related note: What does Dish do for the folks that have Dish receivers on their RVs, where there is truly no option for a land line?

  18. cooper says:

    good point, misterelectric. our receiver is definitely not a newer model (and is a piece of crap), so i guess we have been lucky to not have the fee.

  19. Keter says:

    I have had Dish Network for about 4 years now, and do have a phone line to which it is connected. Over the past summer, the phone cord became disconnected when I moved some other equipment, and I didn’t discover this until several months had passed. I didn’t get a fee or popup. The receiver is less than a year old (I had to buy a replacement when the original one died).

    The conditions that may apply:
    1. I have the lowest cost package that gets local channels (no TV or FM radio reception in my area at all).
    2. I am set up for automatic payment.
    3. I *NEVER* order PPV. It’s not disabled, I just never use it.
    4. I am in a rural area where “sharing” is not worth the effort and expense of setting up.

    My guess: Dee is in an apartment or subdivision in which there is a known problem with theft of service, and there’s a flag somewhere in Dish Network’s system to monitor the area closely.

    Not sure if this applies or not:
    Recently, Dish Network has started doing some kind of “system maintenance” daily in the 2-3 AM window, and if I’m watching at that hour, it pops up a message telling me to press a button to continue watching. If I’m not watching, the next time I turn the TV on (I leave the receiver on all the time), I have to perform that button press before I can change the channel.

    The phone line is also required to use Dish Network’s Internet services, which are like dialup for outbound signals from your computer and like cable on the inbound. This hybrid connection isn’t worth the money if you have any options other than pure dialup.

  20. sp3nc3 says:

    Ditto to misterelectric. Newer receivers call home periodically, and the fee is assessed if the mothership doesn’t hear from her children that are under your care. The purpose for this is to prevent account sharing.

    If Dee has cable internet, she might look into using VOIP to provide a phone connection. If she’s already got a subscription to Vonage, that’ll work fine (Skype won’t, unfortunately). But if she’s not already paying for VOIP and doesn’t want to incur another bill, there are providers like FreeWorldDialup that offer free calls to 800 numbers. She might need a box to connect a regular phone (or in her case, a dish receiver) to the IP network, but that only runs about $60 and will pay for itself over a year without that pesky $5 fee.

  21. misterelectric says:

    Question: How would the receiver know if there were any kind of service-sharing going on? What would it be able to report when it calls home? As far as the receiver is concerned, how would it be any different than a law-abiding citizen using it to power two TVs in their own home, as opposed to powering one TV in each of two seperate homes? Does anyone know? Or is the “theft-of-service” explanation B.S.?

  22. tspack says:

    As a couple others have said, this is a thing with newer model receivers. I used to not have that “plug it into the phone or get charged $5” thing until I upgraded my receiver to the dual tuner DVR. And they really will charge it if it isn’t connected. It calls in every night. I had accidentally disconnected it, and after a couple days a message popped up on my screen warning me that I would be charged the $5 if I didn’t connect to a phone line.

    For me it’s not really an issue because I currently have a land line. However, I hope to be moving soon, and when I do so I would like to ditch the land line, which would mean ditching Dish. If DirectTV doesn’t have this requirement, I guess I’ll go with them.

  23. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    As far as I know, the telephone line is only used for PPV billing and authorization. Why the $5 fee? Because they can get away with it.

    It seems to me you should be able to opt out and say “I don’t want PPV, disable it, and don’t charge me $5 a month.”

  24. Ben Popken says:

    Dee writes:

    “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…”

  25. dewrock says:

    I posted this on the Updated part of the blog but I thought I’d post it here also.

    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.


  26. VanTucker says:

    I received a letter from Dish saying that my dual-tuner was not plugged in on June 14, 2007, making me liable for an additional $5 programming access fee for the unplugged receiver. The $5 fee would be on this months statement and applied going forward for any receivers that are not plugged into a phone line. They sent a $10 coupon to offset the charges because we are valued customers. We immediately went upstairs to check. We have had these receivers for two years and no one had unplugged the phone lines. We called the 800 number to make sure they know that our receiver IS plugged in. We don’t want to be charged $5 every month if their equipment is saying it isn’t. The representative told us, “Don’t worry about it, they send those letters out RANDOMLY to remind people to keep their phone lines plugged in. When we protested that it even had a date, they said again…don’t worry about it, you won’t be charged.” I WAS charged though, on my credit card. I had to mail in the coupon to get my $5 back, and suspect I’ll be charged $5 again before they get it straight. That’s probably why they sent $10. What a hassle. That’s no way to treat valued customers!! Isn’t it illegal to RANDOMLY charge phony fees? My son-in-law said he read about this in Readers’ Digest.