4th Circuit Upholds Robocall Judgment Against Dish Network

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RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Dish Network owes millions to unwilling robocall recipients, the Fourth Circuit ruled Thursday, affirming a decision that the telecom giant’s dialing conduct violated federal consumer protection rules.

“Telemarketing calls are also intrusive,” U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for a three-judge panel in Richmond, Virginia. “A great many people object to these calls, which interfere with their lives, tie up their phone lines, and cause confusion and disruption on phone records.”

The ruling says Dish Network violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by knowingly allowing sales calls to frequently reach the ears of unwilling consumers.

The company is required to pay $61.5 million to those affected by its business-soliciting calls.

Thomas Krakauer brought the underlying lawsuit against Dish Network in 2015, vying to represent a class of people who received unsolicited calls from the company’s sales representative, Satellite Systems Network (SSN), since at least 2009.

Krakauer said SSN repeatedly called to encourage him to buy Dish Network Services, despite his being listed on the national “Do Not Call Registry,” as well as the company’s own list of forbidden numbers.  

The TCPA, which was enacted by Congress in 1991, forbids companies and organizations from calling telephone numbers listed on  the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call” registry.

Dish appealed to the Fourth Circuit after a federal judge in North Carolina ruled in 2017 that the company was liable for its representative’s cold calls.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed Thursday, saying anyone who received these nuisance calls were technically “injured” by Dish’s actions.

“Dish’s arguments, if accepted, would contort a simple and administrable statute into one that is both burdensome and toothless,” Wilkinson wrote, referring to the telephone-abuse preventing purpose of the TCPA.  

According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, the “Do Not Call” registry contained 235,302,818 actively registered phone numbers in 2018, up from 229,816,164 in 2017.

The number of consumer complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls significantly decreased between those two years. For every month in 2018, robocalls made up the majority of consumer complaints about “Do Not Call” violations.

As of 2018, consumers most frequently reported robocalls or pre-recorded messages involving reducing debt, medical and prescriptions and imposter scams, the FTC says.

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