Just $6,790 Of $208 Million In Robocall Fines Have Been Collected By The FCC
from the this-isn't-working dept
Despite endless government initiatives and countless promises from the telecom sector, our national robocall hell continues. Robocalls from telemarketers continue to be the subject the FCC receives the most complaints about (200,000 complaints annually, making up 60% of all FCC complaints), and recent data from the Robocall Index indicates that the problem is only getting worse. Consumers continue to be hammered by mortgage interest rate scams, credit card scams, student loan scams, business loan scams, and IRS scams. 4.9 billion such calls were placed in February alone.
And while the FCC does routinely fine companies and scammers for robocalling, these aren’t the kind of outfits that tend to leave a forwarding address. In fact of the $208 million in fines doled out by the FCC for robocall related fraud, the FCC has only been able to collect around $6,790 in actual penalties. That includes the recent, headline-grabbing record $120 million fine the FCC levied against a robocaller who had made up to 98 million robocalls during one three-month period. The FTC has similarly collected $121 million out of $1.5 billion penalties doled out to stop the annoying spam calls.
Often, it’s hard to collect because the robocallers in question are just scam organizations that quickly disappear or can’t pay. In other instances, it’s just a lack of follow through at the FCC or Justice Department, something that’s also plagued some of the agency’s rulings against companies like AT&T. Many have been quick to point out that the collection failure highlights how fines alone aren’t really doing much to thwart the problem, especially if authorities can’t or won’t collect them:
“The dearth of financial penalties collected by the US government for violations of telemarketing and auto-dialing rules shows the limits the sister regulators [FCC and FTC] face in putting a stop to illegal robocalls,” the Journal wrote. “It also shows why the threat of large fines can fail to deter bad actors.” Fines can be “a deterrent on legitimate companies that have real assets in the US,” but they aren’t as effective against scammers and overseas operators, an attorney quoted by the Journal said.”
Most technology experts say the real solution to robocalling is finding improved ways to block the calls from reaching consumers in the first place. After years of companies like AT&T blaming everybody but themselves for the industry’s apathy to the problem, carriers have finally promised to begin embracing authentication technologies like SHAKEN/STIR that should make it much harder to spoof numbers and complete these calls in the first place.
That?s the amount the @FCC has collected in fines for #robocalls. But such measly efforts are not making a dent in this problem. I?ve called for carriers to make free tools to block robocalls available to every consumer. It?s time for my colleagues join me in this effort.
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) March 28, 2019
FCC boss Ajit Pai recently declared that if carriers don’t deploy such technology this year (something they already planned), he might be forced to actually do his job and hold them more fully accountable for their failures on this front, be it glacial adoption of authentication tech, or providing free robocall tools to existing subscribers, who pay far too much for service to tolerate this scale of apocalyptic annoyance.