Dish Network will no longer charge customers in the state of Colorado an “HD fee” following a settlement reached this week with the state’s attorney general.
Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser announced the settlement this week with the satellite broadcaster, which is based in Colorado. Weiser said that Dish’s practice of continuing to charge the fee, years after HD became standard, constituted “an unfair and misleading practice” under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
The fee was dropped for new subscribers in 2015, but the company continued to charge it for existing customers for several more years after that. Once Weiser’s office announced an investigation, Dish dropped the fee in February for the 2,480 Colorado customers who were still paying it.
Colorado had reached a settlement in June 2021 with DirecTV for charging Colorado residents for the network Altitude Sports during a period in 2019 when it was blacked out due to a carriage dispute. DirecTV at the time agreed to pay $1 million to more than 200,000 Colorado residents.
“Charging an outdated fee is a practice we’ve seen providers use to drive up prices unfairly for Colorado consumers. We will continue to stand up for consumers and protect them from unfair fees,” Weiser said in the statement this week. “Even a $10-a-month fee can add up quickly, especially when hardworking Coloradans have other bills to manage. I commend DISH for taking responsibility following the start of our investigation to voluntarily remove this misleading fee charged to its customers.”
Dish Network has continued to struggle and lose subscribers, dropping another 595,000 in 2021, according to Leichtman Research Group, although DirecTV lost 1.9 million subscribers last year. This has led to renewed talk of a merger between the two satellite broadcasters.
A January report in the New York Post said that the two companies were once again in merger talks and that there are fewer concerns now about antitrust-related roadblocks than there had been in previous attempts by the companies to combine. While there have not been any reports since then of the talks being advanced, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen described a merger as “inevitable” during the company’s most recent earnings call.
“I think it's inevitable that DISH and DIRECTV go together,” Ergen said on the company’s fourth quarter call in February. “Otherwise, both companies will just melt away, and there'll be no service for customers. The regulatory reasons to not allow it, don't exist anymore. I think it's inevitable. I don't know on the timing of it, I guess, is what I'd say.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.