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Dish cited for 57 million telemarketing violations

Dish Network (DISH) was found liable for making more than 57 million calls in violation of federal telemarketing rules, including millions to consumers who were registered on the Do Not Call list, the Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday.

The potential penalty could be staggering, and could include a possible windfall to consumers who often are the beneficiaries in telemarketing cases.

A federal judge issued a partial summary judgment, making the finding that those calls violated federal rules, but left open such questions as what potential penalty the satellite-TV provider could face. Penalties for violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule can be up to $16,000 for each instance.

A trial is set for July in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The government first lodged a complaint against Dish in 2009.

Some of the penalties attached to these types of telemarketing violations can also include payments to consumers who got the unwanted calls.

The FTC cited examples of consumers who were not only on the Do Not Call registry but who also specifically asked Dish to stop calling them. Even though Dish told these customers they wouldn't be called any more, the calls continued regardless. More than a million consumers who got the calls allegedly had made such requests.

On its website, Dish offers customers the opportunity to get off its sales-call lists, and last year it updated its policies.

The site says: "Placing your telephone number on DISH Network's Internal Do Not Call List restricts telephone sales only. If you are a DISH Network customer, we may need to communicate with you regarding service related issues, surveys, billing, and other such topics.

"If you would like to add your telephone number to the National Do Not Call List, you may do so by calling 1-888-382-1222, or online at National Do Not Call Registry."

In addition to the federal government, California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina are also party to bringing the charges against Dish.