Is Dish Network so desperate for subscribers that it allowed telemarketers to violate laws that bar callers from badgering consumers? The No. 2 satellite company is liable for at least 57.6 million calls to people who wanted to be left alone, a U.S. District Court in Illinois says in a summary judgment made in mid-December but disclosed by the FTC today.
Judge Sue Myerscough sided with the FTC in a 2009 complaint filed by the Justice Department on its behalf, with attorneys general from California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina as co-plaintiffs. Dish says it will challenge the ruling when the case goes to trial in July.
The calls violate the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rules, the agency says. Its complaint involves 6.8 million calls to people on the national Do Not Call Registry, 1 million to people on Dish’s own do-not-call list and a whopping 49.7 million abandoned calls. Believe it or not, telemarketers must connect people to a sales rep within two seconds after the person who answers says “hello.”
“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,” the FTC says. “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.”
Dish says it “respectfully disagrees with the bulk of the decision.” The company has “rigorous telemarketing compliance policies and procedures.” But the FTC “has outsourced the management of the National Do Not Call Registry to contractors, with minimal oversight, resulting in a Registry that is inaccurate and that the U.S. Government itself characterizes as ‘a mess.’”
The result, it says, is that the feds are trying to hold Dish responsible for “telemarketing activities alleged to have been conducted by independent third parties, including in circumstances where such third parties were intentionally hiding their telemarketing efforts from Dish.”