Government Sues Dish Network for Telemarketing

Federal officials and four states Wednesday filed suit against satellite-TV service Dish Network, saying that “numerous” consumers on the national do-not-call list were called on its behalf in violation of the law.

The suit was filed in federal court in Illinois by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission against Dish Network LLC, a unit of Dish Network Corp. The attorneys general of California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina joined in the complaint.

Also sued were two companies identified as Dish Network dealers, Vision Quest LLC and New Edge Satellite Inc. Those suits were filed in federal court in Michigan.

Englewood, Colo.-based Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) disputed the allegations against it, saying it is in compliance with “do-not-call” laws.

“We look forward to resolving these differences of opinion through the judicial process,” the company said in a statement Wednedsay.

The federal complaint alleges that Dish Network, “directly and through its authorized dealers,” called customers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The complaint also alleged that the company violated federal telemarketing rules by assisting its authorized dealers in marketing Dish Network services via automatic “robocalls” to potential customers.

“Since the National Do Not Call Registry was launched, it 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 Wednesday. “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. Either way, we will protect the privacy of American consumers and we will hold you accountable.”

The government is seeking unspecified civil penalties. It also wants an injunction against Dish Network barring it from violating do-not-call and telemarketing laws and requiring it to monitor its dealers’ compliance.

In its statement, Dish Network said it should not be “held responsible for ‘do-not-call’ violations by independent retailers.” It said 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 state attorneys general made separate allegations in the complaint accusing Dish Network of violating their state laws.

Last year, federal officials sued two other Dish Network dealers — Planet Earth Satellite Inc., doing business as Teichert Marketing; and Star Satellite LLC, doing business as Tenaya Marketing. Those companies settled the complaints against them for a combined $95,000.

Dish Network serves about 13.7 million satellite-TV customers.

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