OAKLAND - An Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit legal service and advocacy group is helping to represent an Alameda County man suing Dish Network over claims it deceives Spanish-speaking customers.
The class-action lawsuit filed in Superior Court for Alameda County against Dish touches on some of the legal concerns that interest Housing & Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) in Oakland. "HERA is committed to the enforcement of California Civil Code section 1632, which requires that same language contracts be provided where a consumer contract is negotiated in Spanish or another language commonly spoken in California," HERA's Director of Litigation Arthur D. Levy said.
"This requirement protects especially low-income consumers against bait-and-switch practices. This case is an example of outreach marketing to Spanish speakers followed by English-only contracts the customers cannot understand. "HERA is pursuing this case as impact litigation to promote compliance with section 1632."
Levy is part of the legal team representing Alameda County resident Narciso Fuentes in his putative class- action case filed March 7 in the superior court.
On April 15, Dish removed the case to U.S. District Court for California's Northern District.
Fuentes claims Dish Network violates California's Home Solicitation Sales Act, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and Business & Professions Code. Fuentes claims Dish Network targets California's Spanish-speaking community, soliciting them in Spanish and then obtaining their subscriptions by having them sign English-language contracts that don't provide right-to-cancellation disclosures.
What Fuentes describes in his allegations is not rare, Levy said. "We believe it is very common because our class is defined as people who called into Dish on Dish’s Spanish language line," Levy said. "According to Dish, over 100,000 subscribers in California activated their service after speaking with a Spanish-speaking DISH sales representative within the last four years. Dish admits it did not provide Mr. Fuentes with a Spanish language version of what he signed. There is no reason others would be treated any differently."
The ultimate outcome of the case is unclear, Levy said. "It is too soon to tell," he said. "We hope the court will enforce section 1632 and enter an injunction and provide monetary options for the class. We will know more after the court decides the two motions Dish has filed, to dismiss the case on legal grounds and to compel arbitration and avoid class action treatment. "We have strong legal grounds to oppose these motions, but the court will have to rule on them before the litigation can proceed."
In addition to Levy, Fuentes and members of the lawsuit's class are represented by attorneys Bryan Kemnitzer, Nancy Barron and Elliot Conn of Kemnitzer Barron & Krieg in San Francisco.