FCC Proposes Record $120 Million Robocall Fine

The FCC has issued a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture in the amount of a record $120 million against a single individual, Adrian Abramovich of Miami, for hundreds of millions of deceptive robocalls. 

The FCC actually voted on the item before identifying who it was against or even what it was about.

The proposed fine was circulated three weeks ago, but the FCC does not identify the subject of enforcement actions until it has voted, so it was voted first at Thursday's public meeting before the FCC Enforcement Bureau revealed the details.

Related: FCC Approves OneWeb Satellite Broadband U.S. Access

The item was adopted with two yes votes, chairman Ajit Pai and commissioner Mignon Clyburn, with a concurrence by Michael O'Rielly.

It was against one of the most disruptive robocallers the FCC said it has come across. The bureau said close to 100 million calls were placed in just the last three months of 2016. The robocalls claimed to be from a trusted American travel company but were instead sent to unknown foreign companies, said the bureau.

Pai said he was pleased to take major, unprecedented, action against the most egregious "neighbor spoofing" operation the FCC had ever seen. He said Abramovich was no passive participant, but instead was trying to bilk folks out of hard-earned money for vacation packages being hawked.

Related: FCC Seeks Input on Broadband in MTEs

He said it was the FCC's first major action against violations of the Truth in Calling Act and signaled to others who would plunder American's pocket books.

Clyburn said she was happy for the FCC to be as tough as it could be, including the record fine.

O'Rielly said that the reason he concurred was he wants more precise language in Enforcement Bureau items. For one, he said, there was definite intent to defraud but not necessarily to harm, which is part of the FCC standard.

Related: FCC Limits Expansion of Alternate Annual Notice Options

TripAdvisor was one of the sites whose name was used to spoof people into visiting an unknown site, and one of the FCC's partners in ferreting out the fraud.

"Over the past year, TripAdvisor has worked closely with the FCC, including providing them with information obtained through our internal investigation, which helped uncover much of the illegal activity related to today’s FCC enforcement action," said Adam Medros, senior VP, product, for TripAdvisor. "We’re thankful for the significant effort and attention the FCC has dedicated to stopping these bad actors.

"Because of the FCC’s prompt action leveraging TripAdvisor’s initial investigation, we believe millions of consumers will be free from these robocalls and will be better protected from others attempting similar tactics in the future."

(Photo via Pictures of Money's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 17, 2015 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)

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.