FTC Sues Dish Network Over Telemarketing

Company accused of repeatedly contacting consumers who asked for calls to cease

Dish Network has another lawsuit on its hands: The Federal Trade Commission is suing the satellite cable provider, accusing it of illegally calling millions of customers who asked telemarketers from the company and its affiliates to stop calling them.

The FTC says the calls violated provisions of its Telemarketing Sales Rule, which dictates that even if a consumer is not on the National Do Not Call Registry, a telemarketer may not call him or her again if the consumer specifically asks to be placed on the company's own do-not-call list.

The FTC is seeking unspecific civil penalties.

"We have vigorously enforced the Do Not Call rules and will continue to do so to protect consumers' right to be left alone in the privacy of their own homes," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "It is particularly disappointing when a well-established, nationally known company –which ought to know better — appears to have flagrantly and illegally made millions of invasive calls to Americans who specifically told DISH Network to leave them alone."

Dish responded in a statement: "DISH respectfully disputes the merits of the complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission. We manage our marketing practices to best-in-class standards. In fact, our policies have been certified by an independent third party industry expert after an extensive audit. Notably, the FTC was recently denied the ability to assert these same claims by a federal court in another contested matter, and we will defend ourselves vigorously against them."

According to the FTC, Dish violated the telemarketing rule while calling consumers nationwide trying to sell its satellite television programming. Dish makes the calls through its employees and authorized dealers. The FTC contends that DISH has made millions of outbound telephone calls since about Sept. 1, 2007 to consumers who had already told the company they did not want to receive any more calls.

The U.S. Justice Department, working on behalf of the FTC, is currently litigating another case against DISH in which it accuses the company of calling consumers on the National Do Not Call Registry, or causing its dealers to make such calls. That case led to the new one.

Dish is also in litigation with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC over its commercial-skipping Auto Hop feature, which they see as a threat to ad-supported television. It is also being sued by Voom HD, an indirect subsidiary of AMC Networks. Voom is seeking $2.5 billion over a contract it says Dish improperly terminated.