PhotoA jury in Greenboro, N.C., has awarded plaintiffs with a $20.5 million verdict against DISH Network. The class action case stems from alleged violations of the Do Not Call law.

The jury found that DISH was liable for more than 51,000 telemarketer calls placed by a DISH dealer to consumers who had placed their numbers on the national Do Not Call list. In the end, the jury said DISH was responsible for the violations and awarded the plaintiffs $400 per violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

"This case has always been about enforcing the Do Not Call law and protecting people from nuisance telemarketing calls," said Dr. Thomas Krakauer, the class representative. "I am thrilled with the jury's verdict, and thrilled we were able to win this enforcement action."

'Corporate shell game'

Attorney Brian Glasser, part of the team representing the plaintiffs, said the case was won on the strength of the DISH witnesses. He argued in court that the satellite TV provider's order entry retailer program amounted to a "corporate shell game," allowing the company to sign up new customers through illegal telemarketing practices but avoid legal responsibility.

"We believe this is the first and only jury trial for a certified class of consumers alleging Do Not Call violations," said attorney John Barrett, another of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "This was a strength-in-numbers case, one we could only bring as a class action, where we tried 51,000 claims in a single, five-day trial. We're particularly pleased with the message this verdict sends about the importance of the Do Not Call laws, the most popular consumer protection law in U.S. history."

Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was passed by Congress in 1991. It primarily restricts telemarketing and the use of robocallers. In 2003, it was updated to include a Do Not Call registry where consumers may register phone numbers that telemarketers may not legally call.

There are exceptions, however. In the case of a business, if you have had contact with the company as a recent customer, or requested information, the company is allowed to call you for a limited time afterward.

Charities, pollsters, and political organizations are also exempt. That's why consumers need to be on guard against a telemarketer who begins by conducting a survey but evolves into a sales pitch.

If you are on the Do Not Call list and receive a pitch for a some kind of product or service, most likely it is a scam, operating from outside the U.S. and beyond the reach of the law.

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