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Dish Network slammed with $280 million fine for illegal robocalls

By Ray Downs

June 7 (UPI) -- Satellite TV provider Dish Network will have to pay $280 million for violating National Do Not Call Registry laws by making millions of illegal robocalls, the U.S. Justice Department announced.

A Federal Trade Commission investigation found that Dish Network violated the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule by hiring telemarketing companies to call potential subscribers who were on the National Do Not Call list.

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"Dish's reckless decision to use anyone with a call center without any vetting or meaningful supervision demonstrates a disregard for the consuming public," wrote Judge Sue E. Myerscough of the Central District of Illinois, where the five-month trial was held.

Myerscough said the $280 million penalty was warranted because "Dish caused millions and millions of violations of the Do Not Call Laws, and Dish has minimized the significance of its own errors in direct telemarketing and steadfastly denied any responsibility for the actions of its [retailers]. The injury to consumers, the disregard for the law, and the steadfast refusal to accept responsibility require a significant and substantial monetary award."

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Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen echoed Myerscough's opinion about the penalty amount.

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"The outcome of this case shows companies will pay a hefty price for violating consumers' privacy with unwanted calls," she said.

Four states -- California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina -- joined the DOJ in the lawsuit against Dish Network and will divide the $280 million.

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The federal government will collect $168 of Dish Network's penalty, while the states will receive $84 million. An additional $28 million in fines will go to California, North Carolina and Ohio for violations of state law.

Although the $280 million fine is hefty, the final amount is significantly less than the $900 million originally sought by the federal government for Dish Network's illegal pursuit of new customers.

Dish Network spokesman Bob Toevs said the ruling was unfair when compared to similar lawsuits.

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"Dish has long taken its compliance with telemarketing laws seriously, has and will continue to maintain rigorous telemarketing compliance policies and procedures, and has topped multiple independent customer service surveys along the way," he said.

DirecTV was ordered to pay $5.3 million for violating the Do Not Call rule by making illegal robocalls in 2005.

Caribbean Cruise Lines was also found to have broken the Do Not Call rule and in 2016, the cruise ship company finalized a settlement for $76 million.

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