Dish Network has been ordered to pay $280 million in penalties to the U.S. government and four states for violating the federal Do Not Call registry and using automated robocalls to contact subscribers.
The ruling handed down Monday by a federal judge in Illinois will require the satellite television provider to pay $168 million to the federal government and $112 million to North Carolina, California, Ohio and Illinois.
The hefty penalty brings a conclusion to an 8-year-old lawsuit regarding Dish’s telemarketing practices filed against the company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2009. In its original complaint, the FTC alleged Dish had initiated calls to phone numbers listed on the national Do Not Call registry in violation of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.
In marketing its products directly or through telemarketing firms, the company and third-party vendors made millions of phone calls, including to numbers listed on the Do Not Call registry.
Dish was considered liable for 4,094,099 calls made directly and by telemarketers, plus 2,730,842 calls made by its retailers to numbers on the registry. It was also accused of initiating 49,738,073 calls that were abandoned — a violation of the “abandoned-call” provision of the telemarketing rule regarding unsolicited calls that are not picked up.
Originally the FTC had sought $24 million in fines against the company. U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough awarded $280 million in fines for the practices, representing one-fifth of Dish’s 2016 after-tax profits.
Myerscough said the fine was “not onerous” and rejected the company’s objections, which she called “pleas of poverty and lack of cash.” The ruling will also require Dish to employ a telemarketing compliance expert to develop a plan to ensure the company remains in compliance with the do-not-call laws going forward.
In a statement, Dish said it “respectfully disagrees with today’s decision” and will appeal the ruling. Dish argued the penalties “radically and unjustly exceed, by orders of magnitude, those found in the settlements in similar actions.”
The company claimed the court held “Dish responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by independent third-parties, including in circumstances where such third-parties intentionally hid their telemarketing efforts from Dish.”
“The outcome of this case shows companies will pay a hefty price for violating consumers’ privacy with unwanted calls,” said Maureen K. Ohlhausen, the acting FTC chairman.
“This is a great result for consumers, and I am grateful to FTC staff for their years of tenacious work investigating and developing this case. We and our DOJ and state partners will continue to bring enforcement actions against Do Not Call violators.”