On June 5, 2017, an Illinois federal court ordered satellite television provider Dish Network LLC (“Dish”) to pay a record $280 million in civil penalties for violations of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and state law. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Dish initiated, or caused a telemarketer to initiate, outbound telephone calls to phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry, in violation of the TSR. The complaint further alleged that Dish violated the TSR’s prohibition on abandoned calls and assisted and facilitated telemarketers when it knew or consciously avoided knowing that telemarketers were breaking the law.
The court held, in a 475-page opinion, that Dish committed over 66 million TSR violations. Judge Sue Myerscough stated that Dish “created a situation in which unscrupulous sales persons used illegal practices to sell Dish Network programming any way they could.”
$168 million of the penalty was awarded to the federal government, the largest civil penalty obtained to date in a Do Not Call case. The remaining amount was awarded to the states of California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. The court also ordered injunctive relief, requiring Dish to:
- demonstrate that it and its primary retailers fully comply with the TSR’s Safe Harbor Provisions;
- hire a telemarketing expert to ensure compliance; and
- submit to bi-annual compliance verification by the government.
In a statement, Dish indicated its plans to appeal the judgment. Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen pointed to the court’s decision as evidence that “companies will pay a hefty price for violating consumers’ privacy with unwanted calls.”