Nobody likes those annoying robocalls. And the Justice Department is trying to punish a company for forcing them on consumers who tried to opt out.
A federal trial gets underway Tuesday to determine whether DISH Network should be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties for violating the National Do Not Call Registry.
The case was originally filed in 2009 by the Department of Justice along with Ohio, California, Illinois, and North Carolina. After seven years, the federal government and DISH Network will finally debate 150 million alleged violations of the registry in a trial.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges DISH and its vendors engaged in several types of violations including calling people on the Do Not Call list, calling people who specifically asked DISH not to contact them, and robocalling.
In December 2014 Judge Sue E. Myerscough found DISH liable for 57 million violations, but later vacated her finding on approximately 2 million of those.
DOJ will need to prove that DISH had knowledge that the 55 million violations occurred in order for the court to assess penalties. Violations prior to February 2009 can result in penalties of $11,000 per violation, and violations after that date carry $16,000 per for each occurrence.
Under those rules penalties could easily reach into the billions, but the government will likely seek penalties in the high hundreds of millions of dollars.
DOJ is also expected to introduce 100 million additional violations. The government will need to prove those violations and that DISH had sufficient knowledge that the violations were occurring.
In court, DISH will argue that it did not have knowledge of all of the alleged violations. The company maintains it didn't have sufficient knowledge about violations that were being incurred by its vendors and entities those vendors contracted with.
The company also maintains knowingly incurring such violations would be bad business.
"As company whose success depending on excellent customer relations, we share a common goal with the [Federal Trade Commission] - delivering a better experience for customers," Robert Toevs, DISH's Vice President of Corporate Communications said in a statement.
The company also maintains that it has changed its practices since these violations came to light.
"DISH has long taken our compliance to the telemarketing laws seriously, has and will continue to maintain rigorous telemarketing compliance policies and procedures, and has topped multiple independent customer service surveys along the way," Toevs said.
The Do Not Call Registry was intended to protect consumers who do not wish to receive certain types of telemarketing calls. Consumers can register their telephone number without charge and also file complaints.
The complaints alleged in this case are almost ten years old, but telemarketers & robocalls are still an enormous problem for consumers. The FTC says it received two and a half times as many complaints about violations of the Do Not Call Registry and robocalls as it did for all other complaints combined last year -- a number that totals 1.6 million.
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