Is it any wonder why cable providers continue to screw consumers with ridiculous hidden fees and/or absurd cancellation fines? They do it often because they can get away with it, even after being caught. This recent story about Dish Network is amazing to me.
Last week, Dish agreed to a settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in which Dish was ordered to pay a $225,000 fine and credit $4.25 to an estimated 96,500 eligible customers in Wisconsin, or approximately $635,125 total, for “failing to properly communicate rate hikes and the company’s cancellation policy.” This investigation began after a number of complaints were filed in the Wisconsin County Court that detailed multiple examples of Dish raising rates without telling customers and Dish intentionally hiding information as to how they could cancel their Dish service without paying an early termination fee.
How exactly does this fine do anything to stop Dish or any other TV provider from simply continuing this type of illegal practice? Using common sense and the ability to add, Dish likely made many millions off Wisconsin customers being charged hundreds of dollars for ETF’s and much more per month for raised rates.
It get’s better though:
DISH’s “Plan Agreement” with customers, however, makes them agree to a cancellation fee based on months remaining in the contract, the complaint notes, a clause inconsistent with state law. At one point in early 2014, DISH added a paragraph in tiny, barely readable print, in its regular billing statements with a phone number to call “if you would like to cancel any service affected by the price change without a charge.” – Madison.com
As part of the deal, when Dish increases prices on its rate plans that are subject to an ETF, they must tell customers all offers that will be affected by the rate hike, the date of the increase, the new price and how to cancel service without paying an ETF. They must also include language in the same font as the rest of the contract.
Essentially, Dish is now being told to do what everyone thought they were already supposed to be doing. Of course, even after their contract clearly breaks state law, Dish “did not admit to violating Wisconsin consumer laws” because why would they?
Dish already has quite the history of violating state/federal rules. As FierceWireless notes, in 2012, Dish was sued by the Federal Trade Commissions for violating the FTC’s telemarketing rules by calling “millions” of consumers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The FTC asked a U.S. District Court in Illinois for a permanent injunction to prevent Dish from breaking its telemarketing rules, in addition to monetary damages that it did not specify.
Just last year, Dish was fined $250,000 for violating the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act by blacklisting a former employee after he/she reported a vendor for submitting fraudulent invoices and testifying at a deposition.