It took 8 years, but a federal judge has determined that millions and millions of marketing robocalls placed by Dish Network in 2009 were illegal. She ordered the company to pay a total of $280 million to the federal government and four plaintiff states.
Dish released a statement disagreeing with the decision, and vowed to appeal. The company said the penalties "radically and unjustly exceed, by orders of magnitude, those found in the settlements in similar actions."
In 2009, nearly all 50 states accused Dish Network of calling millions of people who had registered on no-call lists, violating Federal law. Penalties are up to $16,000 per call, but settlements have customarily been significantly lower than that. Dish settled with 46 of the states, paying a total of about $6 million.
The remaining four states—California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio—elected to sue the company. They were joined by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Justice Department sought $900 million in damages, while the states were originally asking for an aggregate of up to $23.5 billion in fines. The latter sum was reduced significantly in court proceedings late last year.
Dish blamed a telemarketing contractor for 90% of the offending calls, but at least one lower court (in North Carolina) determined that Dish was still liable, and in this most recent decision, U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough agreed.
She ordered Dish to hire a compliance expert (the company said it has long since ceased the practice), and will allow agents of the Federal Government or of the four plaintiff states to make unannounced inspections of Dish’s telemarketing operations after first getting court approval. Dish will be subject to such supervision for at least 20 years, the District Court ruled.
Of the $280 million penalty actually assessed, the judge awarded $168 million to the U.S. government and $112 million to be split among the four states.
The case is U.S. et al. v. Dish Network LLC, case number 3:09-cv-03073.