Satellite television giant Dish Network has been ordered to pay $280 million in penalties for violations of the National Do Not Call Registry laws and invading the privacy of American consumers, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.
A federal judge in Illinois ruled this week that Colorado-based Dish Network was liable for the telemarketing violations of third-party call centers hired by the satellite TV company to lure subscribers.
U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough of the Central District of Illinois, who presided over a five-week trial, concluded that Dish knew, or should have known, that its actions were illegal.
“Dish’s reckless decision to use anyone with a call center without any vetting or meaningful supervision demonstrates a disregard for the consuming public,” Myerscough wrote in a 475-page opinion issued Monday.
She said the $280-million penalty — which the U.S. Justice Department said was the largest ever for telemarketing violations — was appropriate. “Dish caused millions and millions of violations of the Do Not Call Laws, and Dish has minimized the significance of its own errors in direct telemarketing and steadfastly denied any responsibility for the actions of its [retailers],” the judge wrote.
California will receive $53.25 million of the award because many of the people called were California residents who had listed their telephone numbers with the do-not-call registry, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said.
“As families gather around the dinner table each night, they shouldn’t be bombarded by unwanted telemarketing calls,” Becerra said, adding that Dish also violated state telemarketing laws.
Dish said it would appeal.
“The court is holding Dish responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by independent third parties, including in circumstances where such third parties intentionally hid their telemarketing efforts from Dish,” a Dish spokesman said in a statement. “The penalties awarded in this case radically and unjustly exceed ... those found in the settlements in similar actions.”
An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission determined that Dish had violated provisions that prohibit telemarketing calls, and so-called robocalls, to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The FTC referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against Dish in 2009, along with the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina. The matter went to trial before Judge Myerscough in January 2016.