Her mother’s Dish TV service doesn’t work despite repeated calls to the company. But now it refuses to waive her early termination fee. Does Denise Omelia’s mother have no choice but to pay up?
Question: I’m writing on behalf of my mother back in the States, who has a problem with Dish TV. Her service was installed a few weeks ago, but has been faulty since day one. She’s never had a full day of Dish.
The service freezes, the remote control won’t change channels. It’s the same issue every day.
On the first day when I was visiting her from the U.K., I made three late-night phone calls from my mother’s home to Dish after the remote started to freeze. A phone technician started to troubleshoot. We reset the remote three times, but nothing worked. A technician came to her home, but the problems continued.
Dish ordered a new box, which my 80-year-old mother had to install herself. She had to ask one of my friends to help her,since I had returned to Europe. The new receiver box didn’t work. The TV works for a while and then the remote freezes.
Last night, I spoke with the customer service center supervisor and she said if there are three visits for the same problem, my mother would be released from her contract. Problem is, one of the visits was cleverly labeled a customer “re-education” visit, so Dish won’t release my mother from her contract and insists on charging her a $500 early termination fee.
Meanwhile, the remote is still freezing. This issue happens in the evening, when the TV has been on for a while. Can you help? — Denise Omelia, Watford, U.K.
Answer: Your mother’s TV service obviously doesn’t work, and despite repeated efforts to address the problem, it seems unfixable. I’d say Dish is in breach of its contract and should let your mother out of her contract immediately.
The Dish TV agreement she signed is a fascinating example of an adhesion contract, which is to say it applies to her but not necessarily to the company. Under the terms, it can terminate its service at any time and for any reason, without penalty. But if you decided to leave, you must pay an early termination fee.
But implied in the contract is that the Dish service will actually work. And Mom’s service doesn’t — no one’s disputing that. The “three visits and you’re out” clause appears to be an unpublished policy, but you’re right, it appeared Dish was trying to give itself a little extra rope in this case.
Calling the visit to your mother a “customer re-education” visit made me think she was being detained in North Korea, or that someone at Dish had read one dystopian novel too many. The actual reason for the visit is unimportant, which the supervisor you spoke with should have understood.
A single call to a Dish manager wasn’t your mother’s final option. She could have just kept calling the company until it had the required three visits. A brief, polite email to a Dish executive I list them on my site — would have been her next step. Email addresses at Dish follow the convention email@example.com.