TV Answer Man, I read your story about people being fed up over losing channels on Dish because of the fight they are having with the Tegna company. But I want to know is there anything we can do about it? Can we sue the companies for not giving us what we pay for? — Claire, Fairfax, Virginia.
Claire, the Dish-Tegna fee fight, which is now 15 days old, has prompted several readers to e-mail me inquiring whether they can sue either company. The satcaster has lost 64 Tegna-owned network affiliates in 53 markets due to the dispute.
Well, it would seem obvious that you can’t sue Tegna because there is no contract between the broadcaster and the viewers. Tegna would argue that you could easily install an antenna or switch to another TV provider if you want to watch its signals.
But the relationship between Dish and the affected viewers is different because Dish requires new customers to sign a two-year contract in exchange for lower promotional prices. It’s not as easy to switch providers because Dish will charge you a termination penalty of $20 for every month left in the 24-month pact.
Some viewers say 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 when they signed up. Consequently, they argue, they should be able to sue Dish for removing the channels.
But here’s the problem with that: 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 it would seem that Dish is within its rights to drop the Tegna channels.
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 could change at any time.
Claire, hope that makes sense. The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this carriage battle and will report back here if anything changes. Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann