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DEC
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9 MOS

DirecTV Sues Dish Network Retailer for Satellite TV Trickery

The satellite TV giant details an elaborate "ruse" that includes impersonation, uninvited house calls, phony complaints from neighbors and exploitation of the U.S. military to avoid early cancellation fees.

Mike White
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
DirecTV CEO Mike White

The best characters in the TV business might be the ones literally behind the television screen.

DirecTV has filed an uproarious racketeering lawsuit against Dish One, a retailer for Dish Network, that alleges a "ruse" to convince its existing customers to switch satellite TV providers. The plaintiff says it has gotten its hands on training videos that teach Dish One's sales force the best method for impersonating their way into making the conversions.

According to the complaint filed in California federal court, Dish One's sales staff go door-to-door to reach customers across the United States. The sales team is allegedly taught to wear shirts that include the DirecTV name and logo, carry binders with the DirecTV name and logo, and ask existing DirecTV customers, "How long have you been with us on DirecTV?"

The pitch continues.

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"You have been with us a long time," the salesperson says. "We do both Dish Network and DirecTV. … I'm the install company. I do all of the Dish Network and DirecTV installs in this whole area."

But not all satellite TV companies are alike.

"We have had a ton of our DirecTV customers calling in and complaining," the salesperson adds. "It has made sense for all of your neighbors to switch."

The lawsuit then describes what happens next. The video allegedly teaches Dish One's sales force to walk into the customer's home "without an invitation" to inspect the equipment. Later, the sales person "attempts to convince the customer to sign up for an 'upgrade' of the customer's service and to get a brand-new receiver box."

DirecTV says that customers -- many elderly -- don't become aware the "upgrade" is to Dish Network "until after they have signed up and after installation has begun."

That would explain how DirecTV customers are goaded into signing up for Dish Network service, but the issue of how to disentangle customers from their contracts with DirecTV remains.

Alas, Dish One has allegedly figured out how to solve this problem too: The sales staff simply switch characters!

According to the lawsuit, "Defendants impersonate the customer and contact DirecTV, falsely stating to DirecTV that the DirecTV customer is an active member of the United States military who has just received deployment instructions and seeks to cancel their DirecTV account without cancellation fees or penalties."

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From the looks of the lawsuit, DirecTV seems to have also followed around one Dish One employee over the course of June and provides a timeline of his activities in California to trick nine victims. The plaintiff also alleges that the "scheme continues today … beyond the state of California and likely nationwide."

For all of these satellite TV shenanigans, DirecTV lodges a host of charges. For running an "enterprise" that allegedly is trafficking in counterfeit goods and services, the plaintiff claims a violation of racketeering laws. For using DirecTV's marks, the plaintiff claims trademark infringement. For misleading customers, the plaintiff claims false advertising and fraud. Then, there's complaints of unfair competition, libel, slander, tortious interference and unjust enrichment too. DirecTV is represented by Michael Williams at Quinn Emanuel. Here's the full complaint.

Dish One couldn't be reached for comment. Dish Network, a separate entity, isn't a named defendant.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner