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DOJ and 4 States Want $24 Billion In Fines From Dish Network For Telemarketing (arstechnica.com) 117

walterbyrd writes: The DOJ as well as Ohio, Illinois, California, and North Carolina say that Dish disregarded federal laws on call etiquette. US lawyers are asking for $900 million in civil penalties, and the four states are asking for $23.5 billion in fines, according to the Denver Post. 'Laws against phoning people on do-not-call lists and using recorded messages allow penalties of up to $16,000 per violation,' the Post added.
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DOJ and 4 States Want $24 Billion In Fines From Dish Network For Telemarketing

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  • The only people who would see a dime of this aren't affected by it. It's lawyers all the way down.

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      If you want something, file a civil suit.

      • Re: Too Bad (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @08:24AM (#51360663) Homepage

        There is a serious collective action problem here. Between caller ID spoofing, robo-calling, callers refusing to identify their company or who they are calling on behalf of, and outright fraud, it is all but impossible to establish a TCPA violator's identity well enough to stand up in court, and then it is practically impossible to enforce any judgment. The time and effort it takes to win money is more costly for most people than what they could collect in a civil case.

        • Re: Too Bad (Score:4, Insightful)

          by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @08:53AM (#51360715) Homepage Journal
          It isnt impossible. If someone wanted to they could identify these companies. The phone companies don't want to bother though. They have the technology though.
          • Do the signaling protocols that telcos use accurately carry source information, even when VoIP providers help spoofing? Why won't my caller phone show that info? I didn't say identifying the caller was impossible, just that it is inordinately difficult and often not worth the hassle. It also tends to raise one's blood pressure.

            • I contend that yes, the phone company *always* has the ability to find the source of a call, otherwise premium-rate (900, 976, phone sex, fortune-teller, etc.) calls would not work.

              I bet if a telemarketer were to call a premium rate number, the phone company would have no problem knowing who to send the $2.99/minute bill to.

            • by Amouth ( 879122 )

              What your looking for is ANI (Automatic Number Identification).

              with newer VoIP exchanges it's easier to spoof, but you wouldn't be able to from a legit phone company connection.

            • by swb ( 14022 )

              "Not worth the hassle" is the part that matters. Because for them it's all hassle and no reward.

              If the Feds were to open a RICO case against a telemarketer and choose to make the telephony providers who enable them part of the conspiracy and part of the 20 years in prison, $100,000 per count prosecution then you bet your sweet ass they'd be coming up with circuit traces and source information, rapidamente.

              I would imagine just considering a RICO case and telling a telco that they were considering including

              • not spending the next 20 years in Lewisburg Penitentiary With the people who made the actual calls.

                That should get results!

            • Here's a 71 page reference called "Caller ID (CID) Algorithm User’s Guide" [ti.com]. The service providing names with numbers is technically separate, called CNAME. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has some basic info. But seeing as Caller ID was developed in 1984, far before most tech we're currently using and made to work with basic switching systems (in the teleco sense, not modern networking sense), it's quite primitive and easily spoofed. Anyone with an old modem can make scripts to spoof it.
          • Re: Too Bad (Score:4, Interesting)

            by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @11:01AM (#51361075)

            Some of this is cat and mouse... whatever system is used to identify them is circumvented, when that circumvention no longer works a new one is devised. If a company gets nailed badly enough, they declare bankruptcy and continue on in another corporation using slightly improved evasion methods.

            • I think what we need is liability to the callee that aligns incentives in useful ways. For example, require caller ID to be accurate, and if the caller would be liable for $X in damages, make their telco liable for $X/2 in damages, and the caller's telco liable for $X/4 in damages, with a reasonably streamlined adjudication process. If Verizon owed me $125 for each ID-spoofed call I got in a month, they'd work pretty hard to make it reliable enough to shift that liability.

              • reasonably streamlined adjudication process

                No such animal, either engage a lawyer who will charge you $400 to try to win $500, or take a day off from work to go press the case yourself.

                I've been dealing with a serial harasser who claims to be Google, but is damnably hard to identify - even though they purport to want my business... it's not worth the hassle of chasing down their identity to try to possibly sue them in a local court to win a judgement that is then impractical to collect.

                • For that bit, I was thinking basically an administrative law judge or a panel at the FCC, where their main job is to adjudicate cases like this, and so they can have streamlined accesses to relevant databases -- for example, I say "I got unsolicited calls at 9:15 on day A, 10:43 on day B", and so forth, and they can confirm with my telco that those calls were made, and get details about the callers that my carrier might not give me. If those details sustain my claim of TCPA violations, this judge or panel

            • Some of this is cat and mouse... whatever system is used to identify them is circumvented, when that circumvention no longer works a new one is devised. If a company gets nailed badly enough, they declare bankruptcy and continue on in another corporation using slightly improved evasion methods.

              Like calling from out of the country maybe - where such laws don't apply or cannot be easily enforced.

              • Some of this is cat and mouse... whatever system is used to identify them is circumvented, when that circumvention no longer works a new one is devised. If a company gets nailed badly enough, they declare bankruptcy and continue on in another corporation using slightly improved evasion methods.

                Like calling from out of the country maybe - where such laws don't apply or cannot be easily enforced.

                Yeah, the ultimate evasion - it does take quite a bit of initial investment to set up an international scam, or at least pre-existing contacts in the non-extradition country willing to help. Thankfully, most telemarketing harassers don't have that much initiative or resources.

    • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @07:54AM (#51360607) Homepage
      Lawyers can get a cut of lawsuits. These $$ are fines. Fines go directly to the government.

      But you're right that the people who were most affected won't see a penny.
      • Fines shouldn't go to the government. That's what causes things like corrupt cities setting up speed traps when they have a budget shortfall.

        Fines for violations against the public should go into a government fund. And every year when every taxpayer files their taxes, they get a proportional share out of that fund; either as a tax credit or a refund. That way the money goes back directly to the public.
  • Fukkin... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @08:13AM (#51360631) Homepage Journal

    Nail 'em to the wall, boys.
     
    Ain't nobody got time for telemarketer calls.
     
    I don't care if the fine money goes to ISIS, better them than telemarketers allowed to roam free in parks where there are unattended children. Bastards.

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      I haven't talked to a telemarketer in years. While I was still on the landline, I set up an asterisk server with a sip gateway that plugged into the landline. Incoming calls were directed into a very simple voice menu system that asked you to press one button if you were a commercial/telemarketing call and another button otherwise. It'd play a canned bit about this number not accepting telemarketing calls to anyone who hit the first button and then hang up on them. Robodialers would just get stuck at the me
      • My Asterisk script:
        • If you are from "Lawyers R Us", drop the phone now.
        • Press 1 for a blow on the head with a blunt instrument
        • Press 2 for a poke in the eye with a sharp stick
        • Press 3 if you want to be on hold till next Thursday
        • Press the number corresponding to my front door if you actually want to talk to ME

        Even the bank employees like a laugh now and again.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Should be the ones to get the money.

  • Someone got this story on the early-morning side.

    If there's any money to be had you can bet that every single other state in the Union will have their attorneys general filing suit to join in the grab for cash.

    This isn't about protecting consumers.
    This isn't about punishing companies that screw with consumers.
    It's not even making it about having dinner safe at home at eight o'clock at night without the damn phone ringing.

    It's about government entities wanting MONEY from anyone and everyone they can get it f

    • by geoskd ( 321194 )

      This won't stay "DOJ and four states" very long.

      Yes it will. According to the article, the other 46 states already settled.

  • Awesome, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flopsquad ( 3518045 ) on Sunday January 24, 2016 @09:51AM (#51360821)
    So, it's fine they're going after a big company for being robocall jerks.

    I get a bunch of these calls every week and... it's never once been Dish. It's always these sleazy scam operations with "Stop what you're doing I can make you ten thousand bucks" or "The FBI says there's a break-in every 8 minutes." I know it's only anecdotal, but no one I know who complains about annoying robocalls has ever mentioned Dish, it's always scammers.

    I don't doubt that Dish has abused their phone privileges. But while this (unrealistic) fine in the tens of billions of dollars is big headlines for these AGs, maybe before they tear a ligament patting themselves on the back, they could also do some (less glamorous but more impactful) work against these mom and pop scam outfits?
    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      The difference is that Dish is large enough to know better. They're not just a scam operation, they have more than enough money to get lawyers to look into what they're doing and tell them if it's right, and they decided to ignore all of that and go for it anyway. A nice fat punishment would at least show that the DNC list has some teeth, make an example out of them.
    • And notice they waited until the AT&T / Dish merger was over? Dish doesn't have that kind of cash, but AT&T has a history of lawsuits like this against them and it will be far easier to get a settlement out of AT&T.
    • But while this (unrealistic) fine in the tens of billions of dollars is big headlines for these AGs, maybe before they tear a ligament patting themselves on the back, they could also do some (less glamorous but more impactful) work against these mom and pop scam outfits?

      They do. The problem with a fly-by-night operation is that it's a fly-by-night operation. Scammers aren't running legitimate, fixed businesses, and that makes them hard to shutdown.

      What you hear about in the news now and then are the dumb on

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I quit Dish years ago and still get at least two or three pieces of junk mail from them every week wanting me to come back. Now I can tell you the reason I cancelled Dish was not because I hated Dish, or it was too expensive. It was simply that where I moved to I could not get a decent signal. Now I can see Dish Network using different media to sell their services. But to spend postage to continually hound a former customer who cannot receive your service is a waste of advertising dollars.
    Just imagine the m

  • The 16K violation should go to each person that fell victim to it.
  • Ten years ago, when I was still getting calls asking me to subscribe to a satellite service, they were all 3rd party vendors, some of them dishonest. Did Dish become too stupid to use a cutout?
  • When in Law School, a friend tried to frame 'fax spamming' as a Trespass to Chattels. They use your paper, ink, and equipment, after all.

    If the Trespass argument held water, then perhaps it could be extended to robocalls which can, depending on your plan, use up your minutes or text credits. They'd also take up some of your answering machine or cell phone's memory.

    It was a class project. I don't know if it was ever used in actual court arguments. IANAL.

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