Marine Satellite TV: Fraud and Misclassification

Marine electronics installers, we have to talk to you about the serious issue of fraud and misclassification associated with satellite TV installations!

Have you ever heard of anyone getting into trouble for misclassification or fraud associated with marine satellite TV use? It actually happens quite a bit. Since DIRECTV became part of the AT&T family, the corporation’s team of lawyers is focused upon issues of compliance. This means they’re going after people who violate the DIRECTV’s installation agreements. This is why it’s so important for marine electronics installers to make sure your accounts are properly classified. Since this can be a tricky issue, we’ve taken the time to explain a few things for the benefit of marine satellite TV installers such as yourself.

What is Satellite TV Fraud and Misclassification?
Fraud is the use of residential satellite TV equipment in commercial settings and so much more. Other examples include misrepresenting your billing address, credit, or personal info to get satellite TV service. In a marine application, fraud often comes in the form of commercial boating companies, such as trawlers, allowing workers to connect their home satellite receivers to the boat’s dome. Since a commercial boat is only supposed to have a commercial account, the use of a home receiver on the trawler defrauds AT&T and its many content providers of the money they’d earn.

Misclassification is a type of fraud that tends to be more specific in nature. In a marine satellite situation, it happens when someone brings their home receiver onto a commercial boat that they own. Again, a commercial account is required on boats that you do business on, which is everything from chartered yachts to tugboats and trawlers. When you bring your home receiver onto your commercial boat, and your family continues to watch DIRECTV at home, you’re guilty of misclassification.

The fact of the matter is that people committing fraud and misclassification will get caught. AT&T is a huge company with the resources it needs to track down each and every one of these cases. How people get caught is simply a matter of connecting their receiver to the ship’s satellite dome and turning on the receiver. AT&T uses sophisticated IP geolocation to detect violators. Keep in mind that fraud and misclassification is a federal offense punishable by heavy fines and even imprisonment. If you’re in violation, the best thing you can do is get out ahead of this before AT&T’s attorneys come calling!

Commercial Vs. Residential Accounts
It’s easy for marine satellite TV customers to run afoul of AT&T’s legal team. It all has to do with the confusion between commercial and residential accounts as it applies to boats. On the outset, it all sounds so simple, right? Commercial accounts are used for businesses while residential accounts are for home satellite TV installations. When it comes to marine satellite TV, you might be surprised to discover how muddy these waters can be. (No pun intended.)

To avoid issues of misclassification and fraud, marine satellite installers should follow these two simple rules:

  1. If your client’s boat is chartered (yachts) or used as a business (service vessels), then their satellite TV service should be set up as a commercial account.
  2. If your customer only uses their boat for personal leisure, then it’s considered a residential satellite TV account.

While this seems straightforward, marine satellite TV can get complicated. For example, how do you set up an account for a client who owns their boat through an LLC, but uses it personally? Is that boat considered a business? It’s important to know this before you complete their satellite TV installation.  Answer: If the boat is owned by a business or LLC and used for paid charters – and it’s also used for some amount of personal leisure – it’s still considered a business. The account must be set up with a commercial account in the business or vessel’s name.

A Marine Electronics Installer’s Worst Nightmare
Have you ever heard of someone bringing their home receiver onto a service vessel during their shift? This usually happens when commercial maritime companies pay to have a satellite dome installed on the boat, then tells employees to bring their home receivers to work. AT&T’s legal team can consider someone using a residential satellite dish in a commercial application to be in violation of DIRECTV’s terms and services.

As I said before, DIRECTV’s lawyers are cracking down on misclassification. When someone uses their home receiver out on a trawler, it’s considered a violation of terms according to DIRECTV and other satellite companies. It also affects installers like you. It will be next to impossible for you to service a boat with multiple, individually owned receivers attached to one dish. When working with commercial maritime companies, you should encourage them to take these steps to make sure they are in compliance:

  • Open up a secondary account. This allows your client to have the same receiver in each cabin on each boat.
  • The company also can get a bill that’s separate from the “house” account. This allows each worker to choose different programming than the main company account. They’ll also be able to shut off the service for six months out of each year if needed.
  • Set up separate billing for each employee account. These bills can be sent to the office or accounts payable, depending upon how the company plans to handle it.

Taking these extra precautions can help your clients avoid any fraud or misclassification issues with their satellite TV provider. It’s also an insurance policy for you when you service these vessels in the future.

Signal Connect Can Help!
It’s up to marine electronics installers to guide your marine clients to make the right choices between commercial and residential accounts. To help you help them, you can contact our affiliate company, Signal Connect. As a DIRECTV and DISH Network authorized dealer, Signal Connect is the bridge between you, your client, and their satellite TV provider. The company’s representatives can answer your questions about satellite TV classification. They also can activate your clients’ satellite TV accounts at no cost to you! Signal Connect is the marine electronics installer’s best friend and you can reach them at 844.838.2375.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.