An Illinois federal judge ordered Dish Network to pay the federal government $168 million for violating the FTC’s Telephone Sales Rule (“TSR”). The judgment is the largest civil penalty ever obtained for a violation of the TSR. The remainder of the civil penalty was awarded to the states of California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and various state statutes. In addition to permanently blocking Dish from making calls in violation of the do-not-call laws, the order requires Dish to undergo substantial long-term compliance monitoring. Among the many costly provisions of the compliance monitoring component of the order, Dish is required to hire a telemarketing-compliance expert to prepare policies and procedures to ensure that Dish and its primary retailers continue to comply with the injunction and the telemarketing laws.
The decision follows a five week bench trial that commenced in January 2016. A number of factors were central to the district judge’s 475-page opinion. Significantly, the calls were placed to individuals whose numbers were listed on the National Do Not Call Registry and to individuals who informed Dish that they did not want to receive calls from them. Notably, the court ruled in favor of the federal government on all of the TSR counts and found more than 66 million TSR violations. It further chastised Dish for employing call centers without any vetting or meaningful oversight. The court also admonished Dish for its refusal to take responsibility for the actions of its call centers and retailers. Such remarks represent a growing trend of courts scrutinizing companies over their monitoring of third-party vendors and their practices. Just last month, a North Carolina federal judge presiding over a TCPA class action, found Dish vicariously liable for its vendor’s willful and knowing violations of the TCPA and trebled the damages to $1,200 per call—more than $61 million in total.
A Dish spokesman said that Dish “respectfully disagrees” with the Illinois decision and plans to appeal.