Unlike the usual complaints about cable providers, Maurice Frye was not displeased with service, bundles, channel selection, fees, taxes or even price. Frye, who is hearing-impaired, just wanted to hear the television.
Frye, a gunner in the Korean War, says his hearing has not been the same since a muzzle blast of a 105mm howitzer in 1951.
"My neighbor and I share a bedroom wall," says Frye, who lives in subsidized housing in Vernon, "so I can't play the bedroom TV loud enough to hear it clearly."
Comcast, the development's cable provider, does not supply a set-top box with headphones compatibility and Frye was unaware of wireless-headphone options like TV Ears (www.tvears.com) he could use with either the box or his television. So he called Dish Network, the satellite provider, and asked if he could use his earphones with the satellite receiver.
Yes, he says he was told, as long as he connected the receiver to Internet service via an Ethernet cable. Frye signed up and, a few days later, a Dish technician installed the system.
"I signed all the paperwork," says Frye, "and as he was leaving I asked as to where I should hook up the earphones. He replied, 'You can't.'"
Frye eventually called Dish to cancel the service but was told it would cost $440-plus to cancel before the end of his two-year contract. Frye returned the equipment, but challenged the charge when it appeared on his credit-card statement.
He also called a lawyer, who suggested small claims court. He went to the courthouse, where he discovered he couldn't sue Dish unless it was a registered business in the state. Frye checked with the secretary of the state's office: It wasn't.
Frye filed a complaint with the state Department of Consumer Protection and his state senator, who told Frye to contact the Dish lobbyist at the Capitol.
Still nothing. Then, after reading about Wethersfield resident Steve Ambrosini's difficulties escaping a DirecTV contract, Frye contacted The Bottom Line. TBL quickly contacted Dish. A day later, Dish called Frye.
"They have credited my Visa account for the entire dispute amount," Frye says.
The Bottom Line: Before agreeing to a contract with a satellite provider, check the contract's length, the penalty for early termination, how long any promotional prices last and the cost after the promotion. And, as Frye now knows, the hearing-impaired (or anyone seeking private listening) have options in wireless headphones compatible with either a satellite/cable box or television.
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Sue Marchinetti, Glastonbury
"After reading your column, I realized that I also had a Visa rebate card (from AT&T) that I had forgotten about. When I found the card, imagine my dismay when I discovered it had expired in March. I went online to check the balance of the card in hopes that it was still good, and the message I got was that there was no record of that card number. It does state on the back of the card that funds expire on the expiration date. I hope that I have not lost the $50 rebate.
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Barbara Jarvis, Southington