No more warnings for robocallers against fines

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today issued an order saying that it will no longer warn robocallers before fining them for harassing consumers and violating the law.

Today’s order also extends the timeframe within which the FCC can penalize robocallers for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and spoofing calls violations, and increases the penalties for intentional unlawful robocalls.

“Robocall scam operators don’t need a warning these days to know what they are doing is illegal, and this FCC has long disliked the statutory requirement to grant them mulligans,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said today.

“We have taken unprecedented action against spoofing violations in recent years and removing this outdated ‘warning’ requirement will help us speed up enforcement to protect consumers.”

This change follows the enactment of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act in December 2019 that removed the robocaller warning requirement from law and also made it possible to fine them for violations occurring before the warnings were issued.

Under the prior statutory requirement, the Commission had to issue robocallers that did not otherwise fall within its jurisdiction warnings—formally called citations—related to their alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (by, for example, robocalling cell phones without prior consumer consent) before the agency was able to move forward with an enforcement action. – FCC

Fines of up to $10,000 per robocall

The order increases the maximum penalty per intentional unlawful robocall to $10,000, in addition to the Commission-proposed forfeiture penalty amount.

In addition, the penalties can now be enforced within four years since the day the TCPA and spoofing robocall violations took place, extending the previous statute of limitations from the previous timeframe of up to two years.

“By extending the enforcement period for intentional violations, Congress granted the Commission additional time to pursue violators that intentionally violate laws restricting the use of prerecorded or artificial voice messages and/or automatic telephone dialing systems,” the FCC order reads.

According to FCC’s news release, the Commission has carried out unprecedented enforcement actions against robocallers under the Truth in Caller ID Act, since Chairman Pai took office in January 2017.

Previous fines against robocallers

Among them, the FCC highlights a $120 million fine issued in May 2018 against a Florida-based telemarketing operation for making roughly 100 million spoofed robocalls over three months.

Also, during September 2018, the FCC issued an $82 million penalty against a North Carolina-based health insurance telemarketer for more than 21 million robocalls to market health insurance and proposed a $37.5 million fine against Arizona marketer Affordable Enterprises for peddling home improvement and remodeling services to millions.

In all these three cases, the FCC was also forced by law to issue citations for TCPA violations.

“The Enforcement Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission also recently pushed gateway providers to stop their suspected facilitation of COVID-19-related scam robocalls,” the FCC adds. “Within 24 hours, those gateway providers stopped carrying those scam robocalls.”