By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is suing Dish Network Corp, accusing the satellite television provider of violating telemarketing rules by calling millions of customers who had asked not to be contacted by the company.
In a filing in an Illinois district court, the FTC alleges that since 2007 Dish has called millions of people in Illinois and other states to market its TV services, even after the consumers had asked the company not to contact them.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement on Thursday that it was "particularly disappointing when a well-established, nationally known company - which ought to know better - appears to have flagrantly and illegally made millions of invasive calls to Americans who specifically told DISH Network to leave them alone."
A Dish spokesman said in a statement that it disputes the merits of the FTC complaint and will defend itself "vigorously." Dish added that a "third-party industry expert" had certified the company's marketing practices in an audit.
The FTC is asking Dish to pay civil penalties and to stop making such calls. The agency said in a court filing on Thursday that the violations could bring a fine of $11,000 to $16,000 per call, depending on when the calls were made.
Dish is also involved in a 2009 lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice for calling numbers on the "Do Not Call" list and making automated calls, or "robocalls."
Dish's main competitor, DirecTV, paid $5.3 million to settle similar charges in 2005 after the FTC sued the company for phoning people on the "Do Not Call" list.
Shares of Dish, the No. 2 satellite TV provider behind DirecTV, closed up 47 cents or 1.5 percent, at $32.
The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Dish Network, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, No 3:12-cv-03221
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; editing by John Wallace)