Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP
United States: Federal agencies remain focused on robocalls
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have continued their efforts to crack down on robocalls in recent weeks, with cease-and-desist letters, a record fine proposal, and a warning for comply with investigations or face a lawsuit.
- In February, FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the possibility of a new requirement for callers to obtain consent before delivering voicemail without ringing, which she said “can be annoying, invasive and may lead to fraud like other robocalls”.[,]it should therefore be subject to the same consumer protection rules. The brief press release explained that “the declaratory decision and order respond to a motion filed by All About the Message. The petitioner asks the Commission to find that the delivery of a message directly to a consumer’s cell phone voicemail is not a TCPA protected call. The President’s proposed action would find that voicemail messages without ringing are, in fact, “calls” that require prior express consent from consumers, and thus dismiss the petition.
- The FCC has issued two new cease and desist letters – against Great Choice Telecom LLC and Telecom Carrier Access, Inc. – after determining that the companies were transmitting illegal robocall traffic on behalf of one or more of their clients. Operators were instructed to investigate and “if necessary, immediately stop transmitting this traffic and take action to prevent your network from continuing to be a source of apparently illegal robocalls.” If companies fail to take steps to mitigate illegal traffic or respond to the FCC to document effective steps taken to prevent customers from using networks to make illegal calls, downstream voice service providers will be permitted to block all operator traffic. The agency said the illegal robocall traffic was uncovered through an investigation conducted in conjunction with the Traceback Consortium.
- In the largest TCPA robocall fine ever proposed, the agency issued a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture that included a $45 million fine against Interstate Brokers of America, which the FCC has accused of making 514,467 illegal robocalls without the prior express consent of subscribers or an emergency purpose to sell health insurance on the pretext that the annual enrollment period had been reopened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The calls – to landline and cordless phones – were made after the Florida-based company purchased lists of phone numbers from third-party providers and acquired numbers from consumers seeking health insurance online ( without disclosing that by providing contact information, robocalls would track), the agency said. The FCC investigation was prompted by a report from the Industry Traceback Group, as well as consumer complaints about pre-recorded voicemail marketing insurance plans.
- In other robocall news, the FCC issued an order finding that two voice service providers failed to fully implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework and thus lost their partial exemption from the requirements. agency caller ID authentication. Bandwidth Inc. failed to perform all network upgrades necessary to support STIR/SHAKEN across its entire network, according to the order, and was still operating legacy equipment as of October 21, 2021, well after the deadline of June 30, 2021. As for Vonage, the FCC said the company’s certification reflects that it does not verify caller ID information for all authenticated calls it receives as required. “We won’t turn a blind eye to providers who haven’t done enough to protect consumers from spoofed robocalls,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We will hold companies accountable if they fail to live up to their commitments to protect consumers from robocalls.” Both companies have been referred to the FCC’s Bureau of Enforcement for further investigation.
- To help combat illegal robocalls, the agency announced three new partnerships with state authorities. The state attorneys general of Colorado, North Carolina and Tennessee signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the FCC, while Colorado and Vermont renewed their memorandums of understanding with the agency, total state-federal partnerships to 16. The FCC said it will continue to recruit additional states and territories with the goal of full collaboration in the United States. “Protecting consumers from robocalls and identity theft scams is a daily challenge for local, state and federal law enforcement,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “By sharing information and cooperating closely on investigations, we can better protect consumers everywhere.” As an example of successful cooperation, the FCC cited the agency’s highest-ever fine – $225 million – against a telemarketer who made about a billion fraudulent robocalls to sell short-term health plans. term and of limited duration, the result of coordinated action. survey of eight state attorney general offices.
- The FTC has also turned its attention to robocalls, warning voice over internet protocol (VoIP) providers to cooperate with robocall investigations or prepare to be sued in federal court. At the agency’s request, two VoIP service providers have been ordered by federal courts in California to turn over information the FTC is seeking in connection with ongoing investigations into potentially illegal robocalls. XCast Labs, Inc., allegedly failed to comply with a request for civil investigation (CID), according to an order. The FTC ordered XCast to produce information by the end of February 2021, but the company produced only a “small fraction” of the required information, even with an extension of the deadline, the agency said. The second order was for Deltracon, Inc., which the FTC said failed to submit the required information under a separate CID. Both orders require companies to comply with CIDs or face contempt charges. “Companies that receive civil investigation requests from the FTC must promptly produce all required information,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, said in a statement. “These requests are not voluntary. Companies that don’t respond fully, or don’t respond at all, will have to answer in front of a federal district court judge, as these cases demonstrate. »
Why is this important: From record fines to court orders to comply with an agency CID, the FCC and FTC are watching robocalls closely from every angle. We expect this increased enforcement activity to continue.
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