TV Answer Man, we recently signed up for Dish Network. We had several presale discussions with Dish. One of the requirements was the TV package had to provide Fox Sports Midwest (now Bally Sports Midwest). Network agents assured us that we would. We had no idea it would ever be an issue with Dish Network. We have now cancelled our agreement with Dish, but we have received a billing for $600. Any idea how we should proceed? Can we sue Dish? — William, Joplin, Missouri.
William, I am sorry if you felt you were misled by a customer representative. As you now know, Dish has not carried the Bally Sports regional sports channels (including Bally Sports Midwest in your area) since July 2019 due to a fight over fees with their owner, Sinclair Broadcasting.
The satcaster has also lost other regional sports channels such as the AT&T-named regionals and the NBC Sports regional nets due to separate fee fights. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has repeatedly said he believes the regional sports networks demand too much money because, in his view, they are watched by a relatively small number of people.
The lost of the regional sports channels has prompted several reader e-mails to yours truly inquiring whether they can sue Dish for breach of contract. (Dish requires new customers to sign a two-year contract in exchange for lower promotional prices.) They argue that Dish should not be permitted to charge them if they cancel their agreements because the company removed a channel they were told would be in their lineups. (If you do cancel before the two years are up, Dish will charge you a termination penalty.)
But Dish’s two-year agreement expressly states that all programming is subject to change:
“All packages, programming, features, and functionality and all prices and fees not included in price lock are subject to change without notice,” Dish says.
So Dish had the right to drop the regional sports networks, or any other channel, under that agreement. Customers who feel wronged could still try to sue, but it’s unlikely that they would win.
Now in your case, William, you say that the Dish customer service rep specifically told you that Bally Sports Midwest would be in your lineup when it actually never was because it was removed prior to the beginning of your two-year term.
I’m not a lawyer, but I think any lawsuit would still face many obstacles, chiefly that you agreed to the terms of the Dish’s agreement when you signed up. And that agreement says Dish’s programming lineup at the time of the agreement was published on its web site. The company would argue that you could have looked at the lineup before agreeing to subscribe.
However, if you have a printed or voice record of the Dish customer rep saying the regional sports channel was in your lineup before you signed up, you might have a better chance. Without that documentation, it would just be your word against theirs.
William, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann