Officials of DISH Network have vowed to appeal a U.S. District Court ruling, handed down Monday, which holds DISH liable for $280 million in fines for allegedly placing millions of illegal robocalls to customers whose phone numbers are registered on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “Do Not Call” list.
Described as the largest civil penalty ever imposed for violations of the “Do Not Call” rules, the judgement, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough, allocates $168 million to the federal government and $84 million to the states of California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio for violations of federal law. DISH was also ordered to pay $28 million for violations of state telemarketing statutes. The case against DISH goes back to 2009, when the FTC joined a lawsuit with the aforementioned states charging DISH and its contractors with violations of the Telephone Consumer Act (TCA) in placing more than 55 million telemarketing robocalls to state residents. Although DISH told the court that more than 90% of the calls in question were placed by its contractors and that it fired the contractors upon learning of the illegal robocalls, Judge Myerscough proclaimed in her ruling that DISH “did nothing” to stop these calls and that DISH’s retail sales managers “showed little concern with compliance.”
Although the federal government and the four states requested fines of $900 million and $110 million, respectively, Myerscough reduced the damage award significantly in recognition of DISH’s recent efforts to comply with the TCA and other applicable laws. (The TCA provides for damages of $500 per illegal call or text message, which can be tripled, and the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule prescribes penalties of up to $11,000 per violation prior to February 9, 2009 and up to $16,000 per violation after that date.) In addition to imposing the aforementioned fines, Myerscough implemented a 20-year plan for monitoring DISH’s future compliance with telemarketing laws. Meanwhile, as he stressed that DISH “has long taken its compliance with telemarketing laws seriously,” a spokesman lamented that “the penalties awarded in this case radically and unjustly exceed, by orders of magnitude, those found in the settlements of similar actions” involving other multichannel video program service distributors. As such, the spokesman confirmed that DISH “will appeal the ruling.”