Dish Network: Pay-Per-View Billing Errors Are Impossible

Five Cent Nickel has had enough of Dish Network, and the final straw was when they told him that they wouldn’t correct a billing error because pay-per-view billing errors (in which one is charged for a movie that they did not order) are impossible.

Science has proven it! There can be no billing errors on pay-per-view movies. Ever.

Because their phone service is atrocious and has extensive hold times, I decided to contact them via their website late last week. Within the prescribed 24-48 hours, I received a canned response that basically said “tough luck.” Here’s the text of their response:

Thank you for your e-mail. Please understand all pay-per-view (PPV) movies are non-refundable once ordered. Our technical specialists have done exhaustive troubleshooting on tuners that were reported to have ordered pay-per-view events independently and have found it is not possible for a tuner to do so. The system requires that you confirm your purchase two times before the order will process.

The process to order a PPV includes:

1) Tuning to an event from the guide or channel itself.

2) Pressing the “Select” button go to the order screen.

3) Pressing the “Select” button again to order the PPV.

4) Pressing the right arrow button to highlight “Yes.”

5) Pressing the “Select” button to confirm the order.

6) Pressing the “Select” button to run the phone test.

7) Finally, pressing the “Select” button again to acknowledge the test results.

We regret that it is not possible to make the credit, as you have requested. If you are unaware of how these movies were ordered on your system, you may choose to either lock out your system’s pay-per-view feature (menu, 5, 3) or call us at 1-800-333-3474 to have a supervisor permanently disable your pay-per-view. Both options will prevent pay-per-views from being ordered on your system in the future without your prior explicit approval.

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.

In short, they claim that it’s impossible for their system to make an error of this nature, and they further argued that ordering a PPV movie is so complex that it would be impossible to do so accidentally. The only useful information contained within their boilerplate response is an outline of how to lock out PPV movies. The funny thing is, the movie in question was apparently ordered at 5AM on a Monday morning, at which time nobody in our house is awake.

I’ve responded letting them know that we’ve just about satisfied our original 18 month agreement (we’re seventeen months in) and that I can’t believe they’d risk running off a reliable customer in the interest of defending a $3.99 billing error. Whether or not the PPV movie is technically refundable, they have it within their power to make billing adjustments. They’ve just chosen not to. I’m sure that the CSR that reads my response won’t care, but I’m sick of dealing with dumbass CSRs on the phone. Next stop, a phone call to EchoStar corporate headquarters — this is seemingly the only way to get any satisfaction from them.

Way to lose a customer over $3.99, Dish Network.

Dish Network You STILL Suck [FiveCentNickel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Omi says:

    So they say that it’s impossible to order pay-per-view by accident, ¬.¬ but is it possible to have some inept employee screw up and charge someone by accident. It’s probably no more than one misplaced mouse click away.

  2. Boberto says:

    I had nothing but billing errors, so I canceled. They sent a return box for the two tuners that wasn’t big enough. I gave up after three calls. The tuners sit in my garage, taking up space. Collection agency calls get blocked by my Viatalk account.

  3. handyrae says:

    I haven’t had any billing errors, but have had nightmarish dealings with Dish’s customer service.

    The last time (and there are many)was when I needed to schedule a tech to come to my house. I had to set up the appointment by talking to a young women somewhere in India. She couldn’t understand that there were no cross street or landmarks near my house in the middle of the woods. I tried to tell her that you need to turn left on my road and drive exactly nine-tenths of a mile to my driveway. She kept saying “nine or ten miles?” This went on forever with me even trying to explain fractions and spelling out nine-tenths. I finally asked to speak to something who could either speak better English or who had studied fractions in school. I did, I really did. Not proud about it, but I did. We finally gave up and I said I’d give the directions to the local guy when he called to confirm the appointment.

  4. MumblesFumbles says:

    Welcome to Dish Insanity… As a former customer I can relate. It’s more of a systemic problem within the industry. Their goal is to stay just ahead of the poor customer service of say Comcast.

    I guess they think that standing next to ugly people makes them look like rock stars.

  5. BigNutty says:

    Impossible to order a pay-per-view program by mistake or technical glitch?

    Pay in person with a payment of 1 cent and then tell them later it’s impossible for you to make a mistake. It was a $100 payment and they must have entered the payment incorrectly when you paid.

  6. scampy says:

    In almost every case of this happening it is because either a visitor or the person’s kid ordered the PPV without them knowing and they get pissed and want their money back because “they” didnt order it. I have DirecTV and the ordering process is VERY similar, there is no way I could accidentally go through the 6 confirmations you get before you place your order. Sounds like their kid ordered it or something

  7. coffee177 says:

    Either that or the remote was stuck between the cusions during some romantic interlude?

  8. Bix says:

    I think the point is more that Dish ignores the possibility that their system can make an error and sent canned response geared more towards “O noes, I accidentally ordered a PPV movie!” requests.

  9. mconfoy says:

    @scampy: Most likely what happened. We are not hooked up to the phone on ours, never been billed for one.

  10. g4lt says:

    Lord Ockham for you on line two…..

  11. Pylon83 says:

    In all likelihood the OP’s kid/wife/houseguest ordered the movie. As a former cable company employee, I can tell you that there is no way for a CSR to have accidentally billed him for the movie, and when they are ordered, it is all submitted with the box’s serial number (or other form of unique ID number). It is not “impossible” for an error to occur, but it is so improbable that they are right in refusing to grant a credit. I recall a phone conversation with an upset PPV customer who claimed there was no way anyone in his home ordered the $200 worth of porn, as it is only him, his wife, and his 17 year old son. About half way through reading off all of the titles of the movie to him, he stops me, and says that his son just confessed to ordering them to his wife. The OP probably does now want to acknowledge the fact that his kid would violate the rules and order a movie. The company is right in refusing the credit because it opens up the door to more credits the next time it happens. If they flat refuse credits for any reason, it is much easier to ensure even-handed enforcement. Further, even if the customer “Accidentally” ordered the movie, why should they be able to get away without paying for it? If I “accidentally” run into your car, I’m still liable. People who think they should not have to pay for their mistakes blow me away. Talk about no personal responsibility.

  12. backbroken says:

    Dish would be better off not having any CSR. I’ve got nothing against outsourcing done right, but I’m about 0 for 20 on getting a competant English speaking person on their customer service line. The odd thing is, I’ve been to India…most people in India speak better Engilsh than the folks Dish has working in their Indian call center!

  13. trollkiller says:

    @Pylon83: Agreed

  14. scooby2 says:

    The dish RF remotes are generally all set to the same channel. If you have a neighbor near by with Dish, most likely it was them. I had this exact same thing happen. Turns out it was the neighbors and both had rented the exact same movie. Dish still refused to credit back.

    What tipped me off was one night i was watching a show and it started changing channels on its own. Called over to the neighbor and told them to change the channel a few more times. Bingo. My RF settings were the same as his. Ending up locking PPV and changing RF to a different channel at my own expense since Dish didnt give a flying f*ck.

    I was grateful to be rid of them a few months back. They also sent the wrong size dvr boxes for returning my two dvrs. The indian csr said to use them so I said wtf and used half a roll of packing tape on each box to close them up.

    If I can help it, I will never willingly use a company that outsources their support. Dish customer service is completely horrid. Basically you have to email the CEO to get any issue corrected. Their CSR’s have scripts and will not do a damn thing if it is not on their script!

  15. fivecn says:

    Okay, 4th time is the charm. I couldn’t get any comments to post with my regular account so I’m trying a new one.

    Here’s the deal… I’m the OP of this article and I want to clarify a couple of things…

    First of all, NO, this movie wasn’t ordered by anyone in our household. We had no houseguests, and nobody is awake at that hour. Our kids are young and don’t just get up to watch TV at 5AM.

    Moreover, since publishing the original article, I checked our receiver. Guess what? PPV was already locked down. Thus, it was *impossible* that we could’ve ordered this movie. It’s likewise impossible that our neighbors could’ve accidentally ordered it with a remote on the same frequency (not to mention that none of them are close enough for this to happen).

    The bottom line here is that somehow, some way, Dish f’d up. But instead of recognizing the possibility that the problem could’ve been on their side, they stonewalled us.

    Pilon83: You’re just being a judgmental dick. Clearly, a mega-corporation with a documented track record of horrible service (like Dish) couldn’t screw up. Right? Instead, let’s lay it at the feet of a disappointing lack of “personal responsibility” on the customer’s side of the equation. Yeah, right.

  16. ribex says:

    I’m glad that ordering an Unbox movie using my TiVo requires a PIN entry. I’m not familiar with DirecTV – but is it theoretically possible that, say, a family dog chewing on a remote could have “ordered” the PPV movie even if the TV was off?

  17. jchabotte says:

    The other thing that is possible is that if you have neighbors that have Dish, and you have a dual tuner box, the second tuner uses an RF remote. It’s possible that a nearby neighbor who has the RF remote running on the same frequency channel could have been ordering a movie on their system and got yours at the same time..

  18. dankirsh says:

    I think it doesn’t matter if it was on purpose or not. Its unlikely he is going to call in 10000 times asking for free PPV, so if he thinks it was a mistake this one time then just give credit.

    Recently I was holding my phone and all of a sudden I heard “Verizon 411 Information” on speakerphone. I have no clue how I managed to dial 411 and then put it on speakerphone all with one hand without looking, but obviously I did it. I have never dialed 411 on purpose. Clearly it was my fault (somehow), but I called up Verizon right away (#611) and just said “oops I dialed 411 by mistake somehow” and they gave me credit without arguing. The CSR just decided it was better to believe me it was an accident and keep a long-time customer happy.

    Dish should have done something similar.

  19. edrebber says:

    Cable and satellite TV is a ripoff. Switch back to over the air TV and buy movies from Ebay.

  20. Pylon83 says:

    I don’t think name calling is justified. And if you gave the Dish CSR that kind of reaction when they first said no, it’s no wonder that they refused you. You “insist” that your children were no up at that hour, but do you know that for a fact? Just because Dish has a terrible customer service track record does not mean that they “screwed up” on billing you for the movie. These kinds of charges are not manually entered. They are automatically generated when your box “phones home” and says a movie was ordered. I would again suggest that someone in your home ordered the movie, but you’re likely to show your low level of intelligence and complete lack of tact by starting with the name calling again.

  21. Pylon83 says:

    Why should Dish have to eat the cost of a customers mistake? They have to pay the PPV company for every view, and it is simply unfair to expect them to eat the cost of a customers mistake. People who expect such treatment have an unrealistic sense of entitlement, and typically need to be knocked down a notch or two.

  22. sled_dog says:

    @Pylon83: “These kinds of charges are not manually entered. They are automatically generated when your box “phones home” and says a movie was ordered.”

    Are you saying that they cannot be manually entered?

    How do we know the charges for the contested billing were not manually and purposefully placed on the account, knowing that no purchase had actually taken place? Do this with a $3.99 charge a few thousand times, that could add up to real money. Think of the thousands of dollars Dish Network could make!

    So get a lawyer and get to the bottom of this!

  23. Pylon83 says:

    First off, why would Dish manually add a $3.99 charge to the account? There is no reason to. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but again, very improbable. Seriously, can we get away from the conspiracy theories?
    Yes, get a lawyer to handle a $3.99 dispute with Dish Network. The problem with with commenters on this site is the fact that the vast majority of them are so overly litigious it’s not even funny. “I’m going to get my lawyer to fix this”. Most people have absolutely no clue how much it costs to hire legal counsel. And in the vast majority of cases, you have to pay your own attorney whether you win or not. No lawyer in their right mind would take the case on a contingency, and it would cost thousands out of pocket to pay them on an hourly basis. It doesn’t take someone with a JD to sort these situations out, just someone with some persistence, common sense, and the ability to decide when it’s a waste of your time to fight over $3.99 that your child likely ordered.

  24. jawacg says:


    As much as I hate to say it, the man is right. Unless your kids are infants, there’s no way you can say they weren’t up if you weren’t up. As far as what Dish did or didn’t do for you, was you calm as you discussed this with the CSR or did you get snarky with them? IMHO, if you called them a judgemental dick like you did pylon83 I would have told you to go pound sand as well. I had to order a PPV over the phone because I don’t have my box hooked up to the phone line and the PPV wasn’t on their website to order for the night I wanted it. They were going to charge me for the phone call, but after we discussed it they dropped the charge so I can’t really say their customer service sucks.

  25. fivecn says:

    @Pylon83: Yes, I know for a fact that our kids were not up at that hour. And even if I wasn’t 100% sure, it would’ve been impossible for them to order a movie with the receiver locked (though I didn’t discover that tidbit until after I originally contacted Dish).

    As for my request for credit, I sent them a very calm and well reasoned e-mail. I understand that they likely get a ton of these sorts of requests, but a knnejerk reaction in which they deny any possibility that the problem could be on their side is just bad service, plain and simple.

    Oh, and if you don’t want to be called out, then shouldn’t start talking smack. Do you happen to recall saying this?

    “People who think they should not have to pay for their mistakes blow me away. Talk about no personal responsibility.”

    Sounds pretty judgmental to me. I just call ’em as I see ’em.

  26. fivecn says:

    @jawacg: Read my entire comment. Even if you want to argue that my kids were up and watching TV unbeknownst to us, there’s no arguing with that fact that the receiver was locked down. And no, I didn’t call anyone at Dish a judgmental dick. Of course, they didn’t call us out for having “no personal responsibility,” so they really weren’t deserving of that sort of comment. I simply (and politely) explained that we hadn’t ordered it and requested a credit. What I got in return was a boilerplate message denying with 100% certainty that the problem could be on their side.

  27. neobolts says:

    As a former Dish CSR, I want to say that Scooby2 has correctly identified a possible cause of the situation here. While most PPV events are in fact ordered by another member of the household, I have personally handled cases where the RF remote (wireless through walls) in a neighboring apartment has resulted in phantom activity. However, if ordering PPV is the only phantom activity, Five Cent Nickel’s story doesn’t make sense. In incidents where 2 households are using duplicate RF frequencies, they take over eachother’s DISH box completely. They’d be constantly changing each other’s channels and turning each other’s system off.

    If Five Cent Nickel’s TV is exhibiting widespread phantom control issues, then this is how the PPV got ordered. He should call up DISH and ask for a one-time refund, along with having them explain how to change his remote frequency. PPV is non-refundable by policy, so Five Cent Nickel will need to escalate the call to a supervisor or “retentions” department, since a regular CSR is blocked from refunding it.

  28. swvaboy says:

    @Pylon83: Agree 100%

  29. KJones says:

    I had a similar instance with a different utility…

    I spent a few months working in northern Canada (early 1990s) and was stuck with using the primitive equipment of the phone company NorthWesTel. While most phone companies had already gone digital and were adding then-new features such as call display, in that area, rotary dialling was still common.

    I received the second phone bill during my stay and saw long distance calls that were listed as being over five hours, with at least 10 of over one hour. I made calls to all those phone numbers, but they were NOT of that length, the longest around 40 minutes. The company refused to admit that their antiquated equipment wasn’t recognizing that the phone calls had ended and was overbilling me.

    The bills were only fixed after great amounts of pleading and reasoning before the more advanced and southern phone companies (of the people I called) told NorthWesTel how long the phone calls actually were.

    It happened again each of the next three months. When I left and cancelled the service, they still said I owed hundreds of dollars in long distance charges. They never sent it to a collection agency, though.

  30. PaulMorel says:

    Everyone knocks Comcast on this site, and I just wanted to chime in to say that I have never had a single problem with Comcast. I have used them for 4 years.

    They have shown up on time for service appointments, extended ‘new customer’ offers to me when I had been a customer for years, and even worked with me on resolving odd billing issues. Once I received a bill for 2 months of service on my old house, after I had properly canceled the service. It only took 2 phone calls to get the error fixed.

    Maybe it’s because I am in Pennsylvania, Comcast’s home state. Still, when looking for a new cable provider, you shouldn’t rule out Comcast just because some people here have had bad experiences with them.

  31. DustoMan says:

    So, is all this fuss over $3.99 really worth hiring a lawyer and spending 100x that? I could *MAYBE* see Sled_dog’s point of those charges adding up to thousands of $$$, but I’m afraid people who honestly believe that a company would do that on purpose are seeing a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Been a Dish Network subscriber for half my lifetime and have never been happier.

  32. Pylon83 says:

    I know exactly what I said and I stand by it. Perhaps you shouldn’t submit your story to a public website if you can’t handle having it raked over the coals by the commenters. I’d also like to know how you know “for a fact” that your children were not up. Do you have security cameras in the home that you have reviewed? Or are you just being a trusting parent who refuses to believe little Johnny and Susie would disobey you and be up after bedtime? My guess is the latter .

  33. fivecn says:

    @Pylon83: You’re still missing the larger point that I brought up in my followup comment… That the receiver was locked down. Thus, you can question the details of my original post all you want, but the simple fact is that either Dish or their equipment screwed up.

  34. Pylon83 says:

    Did you “lockdown” the receiver? Do you know the PIN code? Maybe one of your kids locked it and knows the PIN. Had you considered that? Didn’t think so…

  35. JeannieGrrl says:

    Just curious, does PYLON83 have a reason to be totally hateful or is he in someone’s payroll?

  36. dvdchris says:

    Is it just me or does anybody want to know the name of the PPV movie?

  37. Pylon83 says:

    How is my disagreement with the OP’s story “hateful”?

  38. chatterboxwriting says:

    @PaulMorel: You must be one lucky person! I live in PA too and had nothing but problems with Comcast. It started out with failing to show up to install the service (when we called to report them being late, the CSR said they were running behind and to call back in an hour if they hadn’t show up. Called back an hour later and the next CSR said there was no record of any service order placed by us in the system. Called back later on to speak with someone else and the next CSR said they had received a cancellation order, not an install order. On and on and on…). When we finally had the service installed (digital cable with DVR), the DVR service worked maybe 10% of the time and we had a tech out here a dozen times between January and the end of February (literally 12 times we had a tech here). I finally cancelled when they were trying to bill us $16.95 per month for HD DVR service when 1) We don’t own an HD TV and 2) Comcast does not offer HD service in my town. They bill from a much bigger town about 1.5 hours away, so they had the capability to charge us for the service, but don’t actually offer the service here.

  39. Echodork says:

    I worked as a Tech Support CSR for Dish for a year and a half (that job spawned my login name). And yes, the OP is right, Dish’s default behavior for any PPV-related issue is to simply blame the customer.

    Is it possible that your receiver could have accidentally ordered a PPV without your consent? Yes, in theory. It’s also possible that your PC could sign you up for a recurring porn site subscription without your knowledge. Is it probable? From Dish’s perspective, it is several million times more probable that you’re either lying or unaware that someone else in the house ordered the movie.

    PPV issues are probably one of their most common calls. I probably dealt with this same issue a couple hundred times. In the end, it’s probably your fault the movie got ordered, but they should probably just give you the refund anyway.

  40. MainframeSysop says:

    @JEANNIEGRRL: I agree, seems PYLON83 has a stick up you know where.

    I am a Dish Network consumer, and for the most part I am pleased with the service (the actual programming itself) but I have had equipment problems and had to deal with Dish CSRs. I spoke to many of them, some from India and some from the US and it didn’t really matter WHERE they came from, they were HORRIBLE. As you may know, Dish from time to time upgrades the software on their DVRs and they sent down some updates that messed with the DST changes and the DVR programming itself. Guess what Dish did? They said it was the DVR malfunctioning! I had TWO of them and BOTH of them had the same problem at the same time. Can someone say “Logic???” So I had to send them both in and get replacements and it cost me $50 bucks. So what was different about the DVRs they sent me? They both had the UPGRADED software that fixed the ORIGINAL upgrade they sent down to the receivers! I paid $50 bucks for a software upgrade they could have easily just sent down to all the receivers.

    I am also a network technician and have been working with different technologies for 20 years and even though its not PROBABLE it is POSSIBLE that the receiver malfunctioned (hey, according to Dish that’s what happened with my DVRs!!!!). I appreciate DISH Network’s talking head here in this forum and the comments basically saying if Dish admits it’s their fault then they wind up with a huge credibility problem as well as 1000’s of people trying to get their PPV free. I guess if they just credited FIVECN the $3.99 it would have just ended there and not wound up here.

  41. davidc says:

    @Pylon83: What? your a Dish FANBOI?

    Your attitude / comments most definately define you as a first class twit.

    Your didn’t even read the guys follow up where he verified his box was locked down, you just blindly went on being a FANBOI of Dish.

    Get a lyfe and stay off these boards.

  42. 3dollarbill says:

    First off let me say that companies like Dish Network try their best to idot proof equipment to avoid issues like 5 cent’s. That being said, the movie you ordered is on the “All Day Ticket” which runs from 5:00 AM on one day to 5:00 AM to the next. So the movie could have been ordered at any point on the day you are questioning. The billing ledger says 5:00 AM because that is when the new PPV day starts with Dish Network. So next time nickle, don’t let your pride get in the way of enjoying good programming at a better price. How’s that cable or direct TV pricing working out for you?

    $3.99 for all this….OUT