Dish or­dered to pay penalty for do-not-call vi­o­la­tions

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Meg James meg.james@la­ Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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 third­party 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 475page 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 Jus­tice De­part­ment, 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.

David Becker Getty Images

DISH NET­WORK was found li­able for the vi­o­la­tions of call cen­ters hired by the satel­lite TV com­pany.

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