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Two little victories for telemarketing haters

March 25, 2009 |  1:48 pm
Dish Network
Dish Network was sued by the FTC for allegedly violating the national Do Not Call Registry. Credit: David Duprey / Associated Press

For those of you out there who hate telemarketers and robo-calls, today you have two reasons to rejoice: The FTC said it is suing Dish Network for allegedly violating the national Do Not Call Registry, and Verizon Wireless said it settled its lawsuit against Feature Films for Families, which flooded  Verizon customers with calls promoting the movie "The Velveteen Rabbit."

Verizon has won a permanent injunction against Feature Films for Families, the Utah company that allegedly made 500,000 calls in 10 days to the wireless company's customers and employees from the number 917-210-4609. The calls urged people who answered to see the movie, which adapts the tear-jerking book about rabbits, scarlet fever and the shallow nature of children.

Feature Films for Families also agreed to pay Verizon $25,000, which will be donated to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The FTC suit alleges that Dish Network, formerly known as EchoStar, made thousands of calls to people on the Do Not Call list, a registry started in 2003 that gives consumers the option of being taken off telemarketing lists. According to the Associated Press, Dish issued a statement denying the allegations: "An independent audit demonstrates that Dish Network is in compliance with Do Not Call laws, has proper controls in place and is well within the safe-harbor provisions of the law."

The suit alleges that Dish authorized outside dealers to make robo-calls to people on the Do Not Call registry. The Justice Department is filing complaints today against two of those authorized dealers: Vision Quest and New Edge Satellite. The Justice Department already filed suit in 2008 against two other Dish Network authorized dealers: Planet Earth Satellite, doing business as Teichert Marketing, and Star Satellite, doing business as Tenaya Marketing. Those suits were settled out of court.

The FTC has brought more than 40 cases against companies for Do Not Call violations, according to the Associated Press. DirecTV, a Dish Network competitor, paid $5.3 million in 2005 to settle a Do Not Call suit.

The complaints today were jointly filed with attorneys general from California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, which are also alleging that Dish violated state laws.

"Because a few bad actors still don't get it, we want to make it crystal clear," said Eileen Harrington, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "If you call consumers whose number are on the Do Not Call Registry, you're breaking the law."

-- Alana Semuels

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