December 13, 2020

FTC issues largest fine yet for TSR, TCPA violations

On December 7, 2020, the US Department of Justice announced a settlement with DISH Network LLC, resolving an investigation that began in 2009 and went to trial in 2016. 

The original complaint, filed by the United States jointly with all fifty states, alleged that DISH violated federal and state telemarketing laws, by making millions of telemarketing calls to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry and to consumers who previously stated that they did not wish to receive telemarketing calls from DISH and associated third parties. DISH settled with forty-six states in July 2009 by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, leaving the US and four states — California, Ohio, North Carolina and Illinois — as parties to the lawsuit.

In June 2017, the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois found that DISH had made at least 66 million telemarketing calls in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”), and ordered the company to pay $280 million in civil penalties in damages and engage in extensive compliance requirements.  The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding of liability, but vacated and remanded the monetary award for recalculation.

On December 4, 2020, the district court entered the parties’ stipulated order for monetary judgment.  The order maintains the compliance requirements and schedule established by the 2017 ruling, according to which DISH must comply with federal safe harbor provisions, and engage a telemarketing compliance expert to formulate a long-term compliance plan and provide regular status reports. Dish is also required to retain extensive records to demonstrate its compliance with telemarketing laws, and is permanently enjoined from initiating calls to consumers who have stated they do not wish to receive telemarketing calls from DISH or its affiliates, or to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The district court further ordered a civil penalty of $126 million to the United States, over $39.9 million to California, over $13 million to Illinois, nearly $14 million to North Carolina, and $17 million to the state of Ohio — a total of over $210 million, the largest penalty of its kind.  Pursuant to the order, DISH shall not contest the factual and liability findings of the court.

DOJ press release | Stipulated Order | Permanent Injunction | Third amended complaint