DirecTV to sue indivdual users
The Fed. Com Act of 1996 gives the right to cable and satellite providers to sue CIVILY anyone that 'intercepts service without permission.' Statutory damages are $10,000 for cable and $50,000 for satellite. Cable companies have been doing this for years. What they first try to do is intimidate people into pre-litigation agreements. These are agreements where the individual agrees to pay the company money and turn over the equipment in exchange for not getting sued
Most people are unsophisticated and scared of authority. They often admit things to the company that they shouldnít, let employees inspect their homes and turn over equipment when the company asks. My feeling is that cable companies are doing this as an extra money making venture. By accusing individuals of cable piracy they can often extort thousands of dollars from customers. They have a sophisticated operation. They send out mass mailings and have law firms that specialize in this field.
The fact is, that it is very difficult to for the sat. or cable company to prove that one actually intercepted programming. They can often prove that a consumer purchased equipment; but that, by itself, is not proof that they used it. A plausible defense is that one purchased the equipment to receive programming that they DO pay for. This is plausible because cable companies usually only rent cable boxes Ė not sell them. A cable box is required (in many regions) in order to view channels that are part of the basic service. Therefore, if one has a second TV, they must rent a box from the cable co. or purchase a 3rd party one. Additional defenses include any additional services one pays for Ė logically, if one is stealing service why would you pay for extra channels or periodically buy pay-per-view movies?
Nobody should steal service. However, my advice to anyone that feels that they are being falsely accused of stealing service is 1) deny any wrong doing; 2) do not provide the company with any information (it is their obligation to make their own case); do not corroborate anything they say (company investigators are trying to verify information so they can hurt you Ė donít help); do not let them in your home, they have no right to demand to come in; cancel your service (donít do business with people who call you a thief. It also starts the statute of limitation ticking Ė if they donít sue in 3 years, they canít); and consider legal advice.
A Lexus search of these cases against individuals shows that there isnít much out there Ė indicating that most settle out-of-court. The remaining are basically default judgments, where the individual didnít show up in court and the companyís side was the only presented side. Even in these cases, the courts usually didn't award statutory damages. Therefore, if they are getting most people to settle out-of-court, they arenít going to bother with stubborn people willing to defend their case to the end.
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