Court Rules on Discrimination and Translation Case Against DISH Network

On Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey S. White issued an opinion on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiff and Spanish speaker Narciso Fuentes and defendant Dish Network L.L.C. Fuentes alleged that Dish violated four California laws by failing to provide him with the requisite information in Spanish and forcing him to sign an English-language contract he could not understand.

The court recounted how in August 2015, after having a technician install Dish satellite television service equipment in his home, Fuentes was directed to sign an e-contract on a service tablet. With no Spanish version available, Fuentes initially told the technician he did not want to sign it, but did so at the technician’s urging.

Though he wanted a 12-month contract, the one he signed with Dish was for 24 months. His attempts to modify the contract by phone were futile, and the plaintiff ended up following through with the 24-month subscription.

Fuentes sued under California’s Home Solicitation Sales Act (HSSA), Translation Act (CTA), the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), and the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), arguing that the company’s failure to present him with a Spanish contract was illegal.

In this week’s opinion, Judge White analyzed the claims with an eye towards the undisputed facts in the record. Fuentes was entitled to judgment on his HSSA claim, the court said, finding that Dish did not comply with HSSA, “which requires that a contract falling within its scope include information about a buyer’s right to cancel and be written in the same language as an oral sales presentation.”

Judge White then opined that Dish was entitled to judgment on the CTA claim, which provides “that when a business negotiates specified contracts primarily in Spanish, as Dish did here, the customer must be provided with a Spanish translation of the contract that includes every term and condition in the contract before the customer executes the contract.” Though the court concluded that Dish did not comply with the terms of the CTA, the agreement Fuentes made with Dish was not a “retail installment contract” that fell within the ambit of the law. 

As to Fuentes’ argument that Dish’s conduct was unlawful, fraudulent, and unfair under the UCL, the court said that each party was entitled to partial summary judgment based on the opinion’s HSSA, CTA, and CLRA findings.

The court ordered a status conference for December 9.

The plaintiff is represented by Housing & Economic Rights Advocates and Conn Law P.C. and Dish by Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP.