Dear Consumer Ed:

My satellite TV provider charged me for movies that I did not order and refuses to give me proof showing that I did order them (which they claim to have).  What are my legal rights in this situation?

Consumer Ed Says:

Satellite TV is considered a type of cable television service.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and local cable franchising authorities (the city, county or other government organization responsible for regulating cable television services in your area) regulate certain aspects of the cable industry, including some rates and business practices.  However, for the most part, price and service decisions are determined by each cable company, and your right to dispute billing charges is set by your provider's complaint procedures as laid out in your service agreement.

Below are some suggestions for handling billing disputes with your satellite provider:

 

  • Contact your satellite provider first, by phone and in writing, and attempt to resolve the dispute following the company's complaint procedures.The customer service representatives at your satellite provider are your first and best line of defense, especially since rates for premium movie charges are not regulated by the government.
  • If you aren't satisfied with your satellite provider's response, or if it fails to respond, contact your local franchising authority.  The name of the franchising authority (which may be the Board of Commissioners in the county where you receive service) should be on the front or back of your TV bill.  If this information isn't on your bill, contact your satellite provider or your local town or city hall.
  • Your local franchising authority may have adopted the FCC's Customer Service Guidelines, which gives cable/satellite subscribers additional rights, such as the right to a response to a written complaint about billing matters within 30 days.  Or your franchising authority may have its own customer service or billing rules regulating local cable service providers, which may provide you with additional rights or procedures for handling billing disputes.  Some local franchising authorities have online complaint forms that you can use to complain about unresolved billing disputes and practices.
  • If you are still unable to reach an agreement with your satellite provider, you may consider contacting the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.
  • At each step, keep clear and detailed notes about each development, including names, dates and contents of each person and communication in which you participate.

 

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