Violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) are subject to a judgment of anywhere from $400 per call to $1,200 per call, depending on whether the court deems the defendant to have been deliberately willful in its violation of consumers’ privacy.
The TCPA was enacted shortly after cell phones became prominent in the market and cell phone users were charged for the calls they received, as well as those they made. To protect consumers from having to pay for promotional calls they didn’t want to receive on their cell phones, legislators came up with the TCPA, which makes it illegal for companies to call consumers on their cell phone in a non-emergency situation, unless the company has received the consumers’ express permission to do so.
According to U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles, Dish Network LLC earned the highest judgment for the promotional calls they had made to consumers using Satellite Systems Network and allegedly failing to properly regulate the calls that company made on Dish’s behalf.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Thomas Krakauer, who claimed he received multiple calls from SSN on Dish’s behalf from 2009 to 2011, despite being on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. Since he filed is class action against those two companies, the North Carolina federal court has certified two more class actions with similar claims of having received telemarketing calls from Dish or SSN between 2010 and 2011.
In Krakauer’s case, the jury found that SSN had placed more than 51,000 promotional phone calls in violation of the TCPA in the relevant time period and awarded damages to the plaintiffs of $400 for each phone call, bringing the total to about $20.5 million.
But Judge Eagles found that treble damages were warranted, since Dish had willfully violated the TCPA by failing to oversee SSN’s telemarketing practices, despite having promised regulators it would do so. Judge Eagles therefore raised the damages to $1,200 per illegal phone call for a total of $61 million.
Outraged, Dish denied the judge’s assertion that such a large increase in damages was warranted, claiming its rights to due process had been violated and that the damages were excessive.
To support its claim, Dish referred to a lawsuit in Illinois that had been filed by the federal government, as well as several states, and that included some of the same phone calls contained the lawsuit filed by Krakauer.
Judge Eagles rejected their argument, pointing out they had known about the Illinois lawsuit for the three years it had been involved in Krakauer’s allegations against it in the court, and it knew some of the same phone calls were involved. But still Dish had never claimed there were any similarities between the two actions until the damages against Dish had been increased.
Instead, Eagles stood by her decision to treble the damages, saying it reflected how reprehensible Dish’s actions had been in knowingly and repeatedly violating the privacy of thousands of consumers whose numbers were listed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
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