The Dish Network case: The latest fed-state call for Do Not Call compliance

57,606,609. That’s the staggering number of illegal telemarketing calls a federal judge in Illinois has ruled that satellite TV company Dish Network is liable for. The Order granting partial summary judgment against Dish is the latest development in an ongoing case filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC and in cooperation with four states – California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio. The complaint alleges that Dish violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, related rules, and state telemarketing laws.

We’ll go through the legal substance of the opinion in just a minute, but let’s remember there’s a personal story behind each call a company places in violation of the law. The Motion for Summary Judgment in the Dish case recounts just a few of them.

One consumer works the night shift at a North Carolina hotel. Turning the phone off when she tries to sleep during the day isn’t an option. Her husband has a serious medical condition and she needs to be available in case of emergency. After getting repeated calls about Dish service, she took steps to put an end to the annoyance. She listened to the whole recorded sale pitch, hoping a live person would pick up so she could beg them to stop calling. When she finally got somebody on the line, she told them to put her on their Do Not Call list. She started sleeping on the couch with pencil and paper in hand so she could document the calls when they woke her up. Ultimately, she filed two complaints with her State AG. Dish responded that she probably already was on the company's entity-specific Do Not Call list, but she would be added “in an abundance of caution.” But despite all that, the calls kept coming – and according to the government’s motion, she was never put on the entity-specific list.

That's just one example of the kind of conduct that led to the lawsuit. Where else did Dish go wrong? First, the company made outbound telemarketing calls – or caused calls to be made – to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The Court found Dish liable for placing 4,094,099 of those calls either directly or through a company it hired to do telemarketing. Another 2,730,842 were placed by Dish’s authorized dealers or retailers. The Court specifically found Dish liable for the retailers' calls since: 1) Dish retained the retailers, 2) Dish authorized them to market Dish products or services, and 3) the retailers violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by initiating Dish telemarketing calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.

The Court also held that Dish violated the entity-specific provisions of the TSR. That portion of the Rule makes it illegal for a business to call a particular number after that person says they don’t want any more calls from that company. The Judge ruled Dish was responsible for 1,043,595 of those illegal calls. The Court left for trial the question of whether Dish is liable for retailers’ entity-specific violations.

In addition, the Court found Dish responsible for 49,738,073 abandoned calls. Consumers know what we’re talking out: You race out of the shower or run downstairs to answer a ringing phone only to find nobody on the line. Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, companies that place a call have to connect people to a sales rep within two seconds after the consumer finishes saying hello. The Court found Dish liable both for calls it abandoned and for abandoned calls by its retailers.

The Court also ruled in the states’ favor on a number of related claims. For example, the Court found that the company made outbound calls to residents of states whose numbers were on the DNC Registry.

Other matters reserved for trial include the amount of civil penalties for the violations, but even at this stage, the opinion offers a wealth of compliance insights for other companies. Here are just a few tips telemarketers can take from the preliminary ruling.

Liability is broad under the Telemarketing Sales Rule.  The TSR makes it clear that “But I wasn’t the one doing the dialing” isn’t a defense. The ruling underscores that point by holding Dish responsible for illegal calls it initiated and for illegal calls others placed.  

The burden is on companies to prove they meet the “safe harbor” defense.  The TSR includes a safe harbor provision that excuses certain inadvertent violations, but the trial judge expressly rejected Dish’s claim that it qualified for that defense. To meet the safe harbor requirements, the seller or telemarketer must demonstrate that:

  • it has written procedures in place to comply with Do Not Call;
  • it trains its staff in how to abide by the law;
  • it monitors and enforces compliance;
  • it maintains – and honors – a company-specific Do Not Call list;
  • it accesses the Registry no more than 31 days before calling any consumer, and maintains records documenting the process; and
  • call made in violation of Do Not Call was the result of error.

The FTC has free resources to help streamline your compliance obligations.

The states and feds are united in the fight against illegal telemarketing.  The FTC, DOJ, and State AGs remain committed to working together to protect consumers from illegal telemarketing calls.  The ongoing Dish litigation is just one example of that close cooperative relationship. 

 

Comments

thank you remain committed to working together to protect consumers from illegal telemarketing .

Glad you are still enforcing Do Not Call because those calls have picked up again!

Dish Network, even after cancelling out service, returning their equipment and telling them I was closing my bank account continues to bill that account electronically so we haven't been able to close it and it has been almost a year since all of our dealings with them and their services ended. They don't let people out of their contracts without a fight and refuse to honor their agreements when they double bill or electronically transfer more than a customer has agreed to pay when a payment is late. They are using deceptive business practices and bait and switch tactics. To see them facing more time in court is comforting.

They have done the same to me. I cancelled their service in 11/14 and they never stopped billing me. I cancelled my debit card and they somehow found the new number and continued to bill me monthly services. After 4 months they now say I didn't send the equipment. I sent all the equipment in their box in 11/14. They say they receive the TV box but not Internet boxes. Well I sent both equipment in one box so they had to of received the Internet equip. I still am receiving emails that I owe a monthly bill!!! How do we get them to stop!!! They overdrew my bank account with one unauthorized charge! How can they charge a debit card that I did not provide to them or give them authorization to use????

I have essentially experienced the same issue with DISH!
Service cancelled after numerous calls to the company about my receiver malfunctioning. In the end I was only receiving (4 ) FOUR dish stations.
This happened back in 2010. Equipment was returned to them and I was no longer under contract.
Recently while checking my credit report I found that I had been turn into collections for over $300.
Consumers do need protection from this type of scam!

Now we find that we are being scammed by Via Sat /Exwde /Wild Blue Internet service. I have seen thousands of complaints on the BBB site and more on Consumer affairs. There are many other sites as well.THOUSANDS &THOUSANDS of consumers are complaining about this company and can't seem to find anyone to.make this company responsible for their lies and trickery!
I would hope that some how Consumers will be protected from this company who tricks people into signing up after being lied to about what they will get. Then the company tries to get more money out of you. Many people cancel and are charged in excess of $600. For termination fees.
They need to be reviewed,monitored and forced to repay the consumers that were ripped off by them!

The Do Not Call list is a joke. I've been on it for years, even updated it every 5 years or so. I still get as many if not more calls. (None from Dish Network) Latest was from US Healthcare 5-6 times a day all hours and during the night. Since it is a cell phone I just allowed those in my contacts,everything else to Voice Mail. But it then chimed every 30 second to tell me I had a message. The only way to get sleep or peace was to turn it off and even had to use another phone for important calls. They can use the defense it does not apply to them if they are a charity, someone you did business with in the past, even years ago or probably dozens more. If you must give your number, I found getting a Tracfone you can turn off much like a junk e-mail.

Over 57 million illegal calls by Dish - what took the FCC so long to initiate consumer protection? Also, are those 57+ million calls solely from California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio or do they cover Dish's illegal telemarketing nationwide?

The real question is... If the FTC is so great at what they do, how on Earth did the Dish Network get this far? 57.6 Million is not a small number. FTC, where were you for the 5 years all these complaints sat around your office rotting?

I have also had numerous encounters with these calls. I have even gone to the extreme to tell them to come and install a unit so I could waste their time and money, but, they wanted a credit card number upfront to charge the bill before they came out to install it.

I was going to let them come out to install it and then tell them I changed my mind and to go away. That went away with them needing to charge to the card first.

Despite having registered on the DNC list at least twice, our home continues to receive unsolicited calls from telemarketers of all types, including not only commercial callers, but also charities and political candidates. I understand charities and political candidates may be exempt from the law, but the laws should be revised to eliminate that leeway. Does it really matter who is causing the unwelcomed disturbance?

On the commercial side, the most annoying calls I get are from a dialer claiming to represent "the Technical Department." This scam requires you to log onto your computer and go to a site as directed by the caller - in theory, to download some type of software on your computer. These people should be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Further, the laws should treat these scammers even more seriously than someone simply attempting to do legitimate business.

now we need to set an example of dish so this does not happen again
maybe like $57,000,000 dollar fine since they have the money and fire some people at ftc that this get out of hand

57 million. The FTC waited until the company violated the law 57 million times! This is not an opportunity for the FTC to tell the public how wonderful they are because they're enforcing the law. It is a shame. It is a license for telemarketers to continue to violate the law with impunity, so long as they keep their violations under the 50 million-or-so mark. At $16,000 fine per violation, the fine should be $912 BILLION.

The goal should be that every single violation results in the $16,000 fine. That would make telemarketers finally take notice of the law. Start a practice of picking at-random, one violation per day and fine that telemarketer $16,000. If the telemarketer objects rather than pay the fine immediately, then go through the records and issue a fine of $16,000 per reported violation by that company. Do that for a few months and then finally the telemarketers will start to comply with the law.

If the FTC continues its current practice of non-enforcement, the telemarketers will only continue their practice of non-compliance. The American public deserves better.

Stop FTC from sham enforcement; fire FTC employees starting at the very top until violators are billed $16k each violation.

Ive been recieving calls even though their superviser promised that i wont ever get an another call after one of their rep took all my info and threaten me even by calling me at nighf asking personal question!
I wish gov could something about this!!!! Seems like their do not call list doesnt even exsist bcz they still calls n sends mails out!!! Oh and collects ppl very personal infos such as ssn, ccard info dob..etc!!!
BE AWARE PPL!

I don't have dish. Never have. They wont stop calling after asked not to. 3 calls in less than 30 mins today!!!!

I hate telemarketing calls! Dish Network should be disciplined. But the fines put on them right now will destroy them! This is a company where fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters work. This is a place that people rely on to pay for their groceries, mortgage and medical bills. You destroy it and you negatively impact the lives of thousands of American citizens just trying to make it, you will not be destroying an "evil corporation"

So pleased at this effort ! Now if we can look at "lower your rate"Card Member Services, "auto mechanic" your car is out of warranty insurance, and computer repair insurance you bought a computer with windows- calls, that would eliminate 50% of my unwanted calls. Yes, I have been on the list for years, I thought with no end in site. Now there is! Go FTC !!

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Please enter a username. Don't use your email address.

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.