Tornado takes home, Dish Network takes $300

Don't Waste Your Money

Many people have switched from cable to satellite TV services because satellite TV tends to cost a bit less.

But there are some downsides:  You are no longer dealing with a local cable company. And if there's a local issue or tragedy, as one man learned, you may not get the same service.

Jeff Demoss had his life turned upside down recently, when storms and strong winds ripped apart the modular home he and his fiance had just moved into.

He showed a photo album of the devastation.

"That's the frame of my house," he said. "It was across the road up in the tree."

Dish Wants Their Equipment Back

About the only thing left was the post with their electric meter and satellite dish for Dish Network.

"So we called to cancel our service, and told them what happened," Demoss said. "Basically they said 'No problem, it will be taken care of.'"

Only there was a problem: Their rented Dish Network receiver, the box under the TV set,  was lost.

"We kept getting letters in the mail saying 'You are going to have to return the receiver, or we will have to charge you $300 for it,'" Demoss said.
    
Demoss says he even asked an emergency management official to contact dish.  But a couple days later, Demoss said they had the money taken out of their account.

Customer Complaints Not Unusual

Dish Network gets a "C Plus" rating from the Better Business Bureau, with 13,000 complaints the past three years.
    
However, Dish's contract states leased equipment must be returned "undamaged and in working order," so legally the company did nothing wrong in this case.

But when we contacted Dish Networks's media relations department, a spokeswoman promised to look into Demoss's complaint immediately.  Dish now tells us it will issue a full refund to Demoss and his fiance, and apologizes for the oversight.

Demoss just wanted a little understanding as they try to rebuild.

"I understand that they want their property back," he said.  "But I don't have it. I can only tell them so many times I don't have it."

Has Happened Before

Satellite companies have faced similar complaints in the past about fees for lost equipment after a storm, such as following the Joplin, Mo., and Alabama tornadoes in 2011.

Ultimately in that case, Dish Network, DirecTV, and local cable services all agreed to waive fees for storm victims. But just like in this case, the waiver wasn't always automatic for those who lost their homes and equipment.

So if you ever lose cable or satellite equipment to an act of God, you need to escalate the complaint. Don't take the first "no" you receive for an answer.

That way you don't waste your money.

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