3 Feb 2015

So a judge ruled against Dish Network. Potential fine totals $920 billion for 57.5 million telemarketing violations

The fine for a single violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) can be up to a whopping $16,000. Dish Network has been accused of violating the TSR and Do Not Call (DNC) registry a catastrophic 57.5 million times by the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
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Simple multiplication tells us that Dish Network could technically be facing a $920 billion fine, though common sense tells us the company will settle for far, far less.

To put that figure into perspective, the combined profit of the top 1,000 banks in the entire world was $920 billion in 2013. Social programs run by the United States, not including Social Security or Medicare, totaled nearly $927 billion in 2010. Looking into the near future, the Middle East and North Africa military spending are expected to reach $920 billion by 2020, according to a report published by IHS Global Insight.

That $920 billion figure is also larger than the GDP’s of 175 different countries throughout the world, and greater than the 109 poorest countries combined.
The 15 countries with national GDP’s valued higher than $920 billion are:

Source: the CIA World Factbook (2003–2013)
Rank     Country/Region                GDP (Millions of US$)               Year
  European Union16,950,0002013
1 United States16,720,0002013
2 China9,330,0002013
3 Japan5,007,0002013
4 Germany3,593,0002013
5 France2,739,0002013
6 United Kingdom2,490,0002013
7 Brazil2,190,0002013
8 Russia2,113,0002013
9 Italy2,068,0002013
10 Canada1,825,0002013
11 India1,670,0002013
12 Australia1,488,0002013
13 Spain1,356,0002013
14 Mexico1,327,0002013
15 South Korea1,198,0002013

On December 12, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois found Dish Network liable for those tens of millions of calls that violated the FTC’s TSR, including Do Not Call, entity-specific, and abandoned-call violations. That opinion represents a partial summary judgment win in the case the Department of Justice filed on behalf of the FTC, and four state co-plaintiffs (California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina), against Dish in March 2009.

In the ruling, Judge Sue Myerscough, found Dish liable for 4,094,099 calls it or its vendors made to number on the DNC registry, and for 2,730,842 calls its retailers made to numbers on the DNC registry. Additionally, the ruling stated Dish is liable for 49,738,073 abandoned calls that Dish and three of its retailers made. This is in violation of the “abandoned-call” provision of TSR, which stipulates telemarketers are required to connect their call to a sales representative within two seconds of the consumer’s greeting.

According to the FTC, abandoned calls are generally the result from the use of automatic dialing equipment that sometimes reaches more numbers than there are available sales representatives. The rule stipulates that when a telemarketer does not have a representative standing by, a recorded message must play to let you know who’s calling and the number they are calling from.

The law expressly prohibits a recorded sales pitch in a cold call. The law also stipulates a telemarketer or auto-dialing program must give you enough time to answer the phone, so a telemarketer may not hang up on an unanswered call before 15 seconds or four rings.  
The TSR itself prohibits deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts and practices to protect consumers. Specific standards of conduct have been put in place for telemarketing calls:
  1. Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  2. Telemarketers must promptly tell you the identity of the seller or charitable organization and that the call is a sales call or a charitable solicitation.
  3. Telemarketers must disclose all material information about the goods or services they are offering and the terms of the sale. They are prohibited from lying about any terms of their offer.
A representative with the FTC said some people who were called had specifically asked Dish to stop contacting them, yet still received more calls.

Why this matters is because telemarketers are required by law to search the DNC registry every 31 days and avoid calling any phone numbers that are on the registry. Telephone numbers on the registry will only be removed when they are disconnected and reassigned, or when the consumer chooses to remove a number from the registry.

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