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Illinois Court: Dish Network Violated 'Do Not Call' Registries

January 09, 2015
By Casey Houser - Contributing Writer

A recent ruling from an Illinois court against satellite television provider Dish Network states that the TV giant was in violation of several consumer protection regulations. As a result, Dish could face up to $1 billion in penalties and may need to reconsider how it structures contracts with call centers that reach out to existing and potential customers. Businesses across the U.S. should take note that states are not backing down from protecting the interests of consumers and that “do not call” restrictions are in full force and here to stay.

The law blog of Troutman Sanders reports that the District Court for the Central District of Illinois issued an opinion in December about United States of America v. Dish Network LLC, and said that Dish could be liable for millions of telemarketing calls and that it would not be able to claim safe harbor as a function of the contracts it initiated with call centers.

Dish reportedly had contracts with thousands of call centers -- up to 7,500 in 2010 -- and had those businesses make calls on its behalf. This amounted to millions of calls generated with the use of automatic dialers and predictive dialers in order to reach customers with Dish products and services. Although Dish said it made efforts to scrub dialing lists by eliminating phone numbers present on state and federal “do not call” registries, the court case in question here asserts that a number of people whose numbers were on such lists did receive calls from Dish representatives. The Troutman Sanders blog states this outright and mentions the entities involved in the case:

“The United States of America, and the states of California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio (Plaintiff States) have asserted that Dish violated the Telemarketing Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR (News - Alert)), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and various state laws by calling persons who had indicated that they did not wish to receive telemarketing calls, and by making calls using a prerecorded message.”

What should become clear for businesses reading this information is that Dish's efforts to comply with the consumer protections regulations ultimately has brought it under more liability. The court opinion says Dish said it attempted to comply with the TSR and TCPA by scrubbing its own call lists against numbers found in national and state registries and by keeping an internal “do not call” list. It also asserted a level of control over the call centers it had contracts with. As a result, the internal list could be used against Dish if it is found that calls were placed to numbers of that list. Furthermore, the court could find Dish liable for the actions of the call centers because of the control it tried to have over them.

Dish has reportedly tried to defend itself by claiming safe harbor from the actions of its call center clients. The court said it found the claim of safe harbor to be in question because Dish had a “hodgepodge” of compliance policies it extended to those entities.

Business can take note that the least they can do when working with vendors is to be clear about company policies. In addition, businesses must comply with “do not call” registries, but it appears they must be more diligent than ever to make sure they scrub the correct numbers from their calling lists. More details about the court's findings and implications for Dish and other national companies are available in the original post.