Dish Network charged with do-not-call violations

Two U.S. agencies ask a court to stop the company from robocalling and calling consumers on the list

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit charging satellite television and Internet service provider Dish Network with calling numerous consumers whose telephone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit charging satellite television and ISP Dish Network with calling numerous consumers whose telephone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The DOJ, at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's request, also charged Dish Network with violating the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule by assisting its authorized dealers in telemarketing Dish Network services using robocalls that deliver prerecorded messages when consumers answer their phones, the FTC said in a press release.

The two agencies, in a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, are seeking a permanent injunction barring Dish Network from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule and calling consumers on the do-not-call list. The agencies also asked the court to award civil damages of $11,000 for each call that violated the telemarketing rule.

Dish Network, in a statement, denied the charges. The company disagrees that it should be held responsible for do-not-call violations of independent retailers, the statement said.

"An independent audit demonstrates that DISH Network is in compliance with 'do-not-call' laws, has proper controls in place, and is well within the safe-harbor provisions of the law," the statement added. "We also believe that the FTC is equating merely doing business with an independent retailer to 'causing' or 'assisting and facilitating' violations by that retailer, which creates a strict liability standard that does not exist in the law and was not intended by Congress."

The DOJ and FTC complaint accuses Dish Network and two authorized dealers of using telemarketing tactics violating the FTC rule. The company's telemarketers hung up on consumers answering their phones, called people whose numbers are on the do-not-call list, and used prerecorded messages in violation of the rule, the complaint alleges.

Dish Network has received numerous consumer complaints about the telemarketing practices of its authorized dealers, the complaint alleges.

The do-not-call list "has been enormously effective at protecting millions of Americans from unwanted telemarketing calls at home," Eileen Harrington, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "But because a few bad actors still don't get it, we want to make it crystal clear. If you call consumers whose numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry, you're breaking the law. If your authorized dealers call consumers whose numbers are on the Registry, you're breaking the law."

In addition to the Department of Justice and FTC, four state attorneys general, from California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, have joined the complaint. The states accuse Dish Network, formerly EchoStar, of violating state law in addition to national law.

The Department of Justice, at the FTC's request, also filed telemarketing complaints against two of Dish Network's authorized dealers, Vision Quest and New Edge Satellite, along with their owners.

The Department of Justice filed similar charges in mid-2008 against two other Dish Network authorized dealers. Both of those dealers settled the charges and paid penalties totaling $95,000.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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