The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois has found Dish Network liable for tens of millions of calls that violated the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including Do Not Call, entity-specific, and abandoned-call violations. The opinion, which was issued on December 12, 2014, represents a partial summary judgment win in the case the Department of Justice filed on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission against Dish in March 2009.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that Dish initiated, or caused a telemarketer to initiate, outbound telephone calls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, in violation of the TSR. Dish markets its programming directly, through telemarketing vendors it contracts with to engage in telemarketing, and through authorized dealers or retailers.
In the current ruling, the court found Dish liable for 4,094,099 calls it or its vendors made to numbers on the Registry and for 2,730,842 calls its retailers made to numbers on the Registry. The court found that the government met its burden to hold Dish liable for the retailers’ calls since: 1) Dish retained the retailers, 2) Dish authorized the retailers to market Dish products and services, and 3) the retailers violated the TSR by initiating Dish telemarketing calls to numbers on the Registry.
The complaint also alleges that Dish initiated, or caused other telemarketers to initiate, an outbound call to a person who had previously said that they do not wish to receive such a call, in violation of the “entity-specific” provision of the TSR. On this count, the court ruled that Dish is liable for 1,043,595 calls to consumers whose telephone numbers were on Dish’s internal do-not-call list or were marked “DNC” by Dish’s telemarketing vendor. The court left the issue of whether Dish is liable for any entity-specific violations relating to its retailers to be determined at trial.
In addition, the complaint alleges that Dish abandoned or caused telemarketers to abandon outbound telephone calls, in violation of the “abandoned-call” provision of TSR. On this count the court ruled that Dish is liable for 49,738,073 abandoned calls that Dish and three of its retailers made. The court found that Dish is liable for both its own calls, and for causing these retailers’ abandoned calls.
Finally, the court issued several findings in favor of the four state co-plaintiffs in the case against Dish. For example, the court found that the company made outbound telephone calls to residents of the states whose numbers were on the DNC Registry.
The Department of Justice filed the complaint at the FTC’s request in March 2009. DOJ, on behalf of the FTC, is jointly litigating the case with four state co-plaintiffs -- California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina. The states allege that Dish violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and state law by calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and by making telemarketing robocalls to consumers.
Several issues in the case remain and will be resolved at trial, which the court has scheduled to begin in July 2015. (Docket No. 3:12-cv-03221-RM-BGC; the staff contact is Russell S. Deitch, 202-326-2585 or Gary Ivens 202-326-2330)
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs