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Can I Sue a Satellite or Streaming Company?

You may be able to sue a satellite TV provider or a streaming service, but you're probably limited to bringing a claim in small claims court. You can arbitrate your claims for larger amounts, which is a process we describe below. If you decide to arbitrate, note that you are probably limited in the amount you can recover.

Some streaming services limit the time in which you can bring a claim. If you have an issue with a satellite TV business or a streaming service, consult an attorney as soon after the issue arises as you can.

Americans Enjoy Watching Television

On average, Americans watched a staggering amount of television last year. One report suggests as much as eight hours per day. That is about 122 days per year.

Several subscription-based TV services are available to consumers, including cable TV through Comcast with its set-top boxes, satellite dishes through DirectTV or Dish Network, and internet streaming services like Netflix. You can also get live TV service on apps with T-Mobile on your cell phone, computer, or tablet. You can get the major broadcast networks (Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC), sports networks, movie packages, and hundreds of other channels. You could spend eight hours a day watching TV if you wanted to.

But with pay TV options can come problems. Sometimes, your streaming service or satellite provider might make a billing error. You might buy a show and find that the video quality is poor. You might pay a lot of money to livestream a sporting event only to have the feed cut out in the middle of the broadcast.

These issues are frustrating and potentially expensive.

What Options Do You Have to Resolve Disputes?

When you first signed up for satellite or streaming service as a new customer, you agreed to the provider's terms of service. This agreement formed a binding contract. That contract sets out the conditions under which you will receive programming and the process for resolving any disputes.

You will want to make sure you look at the precise language of your provider's terms of service if you get into a dispute. FindLaw looked at several of these contracts to see if there were similarities in the dispute resolution processes:

With at least four notable exceptions — Amazon, YouTube TV, Apple TV+, and Disney+ — they allow similar dispute resolution processes.

Informal Dispute Resolution

You should first try to work out the dispute with your provider informally. Call the customer service number and explain your circumstances. The company may have made a mistake. Give them a chance to fix it.

If that doesn't work, pull up the terms of service on the internet and look at the language under the section on dispute resolution. You may see an outline of the steps you can follow before taking any legal action. Those steps may include notifying the company in an email describing the problem's nature and then waiting to hear back from them. They will look into your claim and may be able to propose a solution that satisfies you.

If you are unsuccessful with the informal process, the next step is to explore potential legal action. Most of these streaming/television contracts give you two options.

Small Claims Court

The first option is filing a claim in your local small claims court. Small claims courts handle disputes of up to a limited amount of money under state law. They provide a relatively inexpensive and quick way to resolve many legal matters, including contract disputes, consumer issues, and landlord-tenant arguments. You can handle many small claims matters without a lawyer (some states won't let you have one).

Small claims court may be the right place for you if your dispute is about an amount that falls under this limit. The limit varies, depending on where you are, but the range is between $2,500 (Rhode Island and Kentucky) and $25,000 (Delaware and Tennessee). You can learn more about small claims court and get more resources from FindLaw.

Be aware that you can't recover the rest if your claim exceeds the amount a small claims court can award.


Your other option is to pursue arbitration. Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that involves having a neutral, experienced third party hired by the parties (an arbitrator) review submissions, hear arguments from both sides and decide the outcome. You can't appeal the arbitrator's decision. Their decision is final.

Many view arbitration as faster and cheaper than going to court. It can be, but some arbitrations are as expensive and take just as long as a formal court case. They can also be very complicated.

If you are considering pursuing arbitration, it would help to speak with an attorney with experience handling arbitrations. They can give you their thoughts about the pros and cons of arbitration and tell you whether it makes sense in your case, especially if your claim is large enough to justify it.


As we pointed out above, at least four companies provide their own specific procedures. Once again, check the terms and conditions of the particular satellite company or streaming service.


Amazon does not force you to go through arbitration. But you can only bring a lawsuit against them in King County, Washington, the location of their headquarters. It doesn't have to be in small claims court, but you must file your case there.

YouTube TV

Google owns YouTube TV. According to its terms of service, you don't have to arbitrate claims against them. But like Amazon, there is only one place in the country where you can bring legal action against them: Santa Clara County, California (its headquarters location).

Apple TV+

The terms of service of Apple TV+ (and other Apple media) also do not force you to arbitrate any claims. But if you want to sue them, you can only do so in Santa Clara County, California.


AT&T owns Disney+. The terms of service for Disney+ (and ESPN+) do not allow you to bring your claim in court. Arbitration is your only option.

Waivers, Disclaimers, Time Limitations, and Limitations on Liability

Figuring out where to bring your claim is just the first step. You still need to win. Winning these cases isn't easy.

Most contracts with satellite companies and streaming services contain further restrictions and limitations. For example, they may:

  • Contain a disclaimer that says they are not liable if service goes out unexpectedly or under other conditions
  • Include language that says you waive your right to relief in certain circumstances (such as if you do not go through the informal dispute resolution process before going to court or pursuing arbitration)
  • Limit the time in which you can bring a claim (such as one year)
  • Limit the amount of any recovery (such as one month's bill)
  • Bar you from filing a class action (a procedural mechanism through which many people join their claims into a single case)

These are just a few examples. This one-sided language should come as no surprise. The provider wrote the contract. You only had two choices — accept their terms as written or don't subscribe to the service.

In any case, this shows how important the language of the terms of service is. So make sure you review them carefully, and if you have any questions, consider running them by an attorney with experience in contracts.

Questions? Consult a Lawyer

So what's the bottom line? If you have a dispute with a satellite company or streaming service, try to work it out. If you can't, your next steps are in the terms of service contract. Follow those steps carefully. Although most give you the choice between small claims court and arbitration, there are exceptions. And they all contain further restrictions and limitations on any right to recover.

Seeking the guidance of a lawyer, especially if you are considering arbitration, is smart. They can guide you, explain your legal rights, and help you decide whether formal dispute resolution makes sense.

Remember that under federal law, you may be able to file a complaint with the Federal Commerce Commission (FCC). The regulators there may be able to help.

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