FCC Fines Robocaller $2.88 Million

A divided FCC has voted to impose a $2.88 million forfeiture on a robocaller. Republican Michael O'Rielly dissented from the decision.

The fine was for robocalls to wireless phones without express prior consent and was imposed on Dialing Services LLC, which the FCC found had made over 4.7 million nonemergency calls without prior consent.

The FCC initially proposed a $2.9 million fine against the company in 2014, but the company identified four instances where the calls were not a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, so the FCC reduced the figure in the final forfeiture order votedThursday. 

O'Rielly outlined some of his problems. He said the FCC was punishing a technology and its operator rather than the companies directly making the illegal robocalls. He called it a far stretch of the law, which he likened to suing gun manufacturers for horrible acts.

He said the TCPA applies to actual callers, not the technology. He also said the FCC's new test for who is actually responsible for an illegal robocall is wanting in various respects. 

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has made it clear that illegal robocallers are in the FCC's sights, but O'Rielly has suggested that the FCC is using too broad a brush and not sufficiently recognizing the benefits of some types of robocalls. He asked whether the goal was compliance or enforcement victories.

He said he was worried about the chilling precedential impact of the decision on other tech platforms. 

Pai said consumers are a top priority and the fine is meant to further that goal. He said the company was not the unwitting conduit, as it claimed to be, and directly helps clients conceal their real intentions in the calls. He said they are not a merely passive actor.

He said it may be the latest effort to stop the "scourge" of robocalls but would not be the last. 

Last month, the FCC proposed an almost $120 million fine against a robocaller.

(Photo via Pictures of Money's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 9, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.