Dish Network Ordered To Pay Record $280 Million For Illegal Telemarketing Calls

Image courtesy of Brady O'Brien

Sure, we say all the time that robocalls are annoying, and agencies like the FTC and FCC talk all the time about how some of them are illegal. But how much trouble does a big company get in these days for actually getting caught making the illegal calls? About $280 million, it turns out.

That’s how much a court has now ordered Dish Network to pay for millions of illegal calls made through 2009, Bloomberg reports.

This is not the same case we told you about only a couple of weeks ago, where Dish was ordered to pay more than $60 million.

That one was a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers in North Carolina who received the irritating calls. A jury found Dish liable for those calls back in January, and the judge determined that the company should pay out $1,200 per person per unwanted call made.

This is a different matter that’s been a long time in the making: The states first sued Dish in 2009, and the most recent phase of the trial began in Jan. 2016.

At the time, the Department of Justice and the attorneys general for four states — California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio — accused Dish Network of violating the law by making more than 55 automated telemarketing calls to mobile numbers as well as numbers on the Do Not Call registry.

The law stipulates that entities that violate the law can be fined up to $16,000 per violation. With an alleged 55 million violations, that added up to as much as $23.5 billion in total fines and penalties.

When the trial began, the judge had already determined that Dish and its contractors had made more than 55 million illegal telemarketing calls. The questions before her were how many calls, exactly, Dish was responsible for, and whether it knowingly broke the law.

The judge settled on something significantly less than $24 billion, instead directing Dish to pay out a total of $280 million in fines — about 10% of the potential maximum penalty.

That breaks down as $168 million to the federal government and $84 million to the four states for violation of federal law, and another $28 million to California, North Carolina, and Ohio for violations of state laws.

Dish had previously settled similar allegations with the other 46 states in 2009, for a total of roughly $6 million.

The judge also imposed a 20-year-long telemarketing compliance plan for Dish going forward because, she wrote, “At least some in Dish management do not believe that Dish really did anything wrong or harmed anyone with these millions and millions of illegal calls.”

In a statement, Dish said that it disagreed with the ruling, and planned to appeal.