Why it matters: A robocaller may be the subject of a $45 million fine for using automated calling without customer consent. It sounds like a hefty penalty, but it could have---maybe should have---been so much more.
Last week the Federal Communications Commission announced it proposed a $45 million fine for an insurance broker out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who was caught using automated calls without customer consent.
According to the FCC's account, Interstate Brokers of America made 514,467 robocalls without written consent. It also made false claims about the pandemic to generate an urgency to take action. These calls went against the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). While not the highest fine the FCC has issued, it is the highest ever doled out under the TCPA.
Today the @FCC proposed a $45 million fine against a company that conducted an apparently illegal robocall campaign to sell health insurance under the pretense that the annual enrollment period had been reopened due to the #COVID19 pandemic. #OpenMtgFCC https://t.co/1jcSSkw8R6--- The FCC (@FCC) February 18, 2022
At a glance, the proposed penalty is much smaller than what the law allows. Under the TCPA, the minimum penalty is $500 per offense and up to $1,500 for willful violations. That amounts to a conservative $250 million fine when you crunch the numbers. So, if the fine is approved, Interstate Brokers will only pay $87.47 per infraction. It is hardly an amount that would make a robocaller think twice about committing the nuisance calls in the future.
However, the FCC did not verify every call. The Commission reviewed a sample of about 10,000 calls, and the fine is based on verified violations in that sample. It did not have a specific figure of illegal calls, but working backward, that would mean the FCC only found 18 percent or an estimated 93,000 calls out of the more than 500,000 that broke the rules. It seems a small percentage and a minimal price to pay for annoying people day in and day out.
In a unanimous vote on Friday, the FCC filed a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL). Interstate Brokers owner Gregory Robbins will have the opportunity to respond to the NAL, and the Commission will consider any evidence he provides in its final ruling.