FCC fines one telemarketer for spoofing calls and proposes fines for another
The Federal Communications Commission has fined one telemarketer more than $82 million — one of its largest-ever fines — and proposed another $37.5 million in fines for another, both related to call spoofing.
In the first case, telemarketer Philip Roesel and his companies were fined more than $82 million for making more than 21 million robocalls selling health insurance from spoofed numbers. The FCC had first proposed the fine to Roesel and his companies, including Wilmington Insurance Quotes and Best Insurance Contracts, last summer under the Truth in Caller ID Act. According to the FCC, Roesel and his companies made more than 21.5 million calls during the time period of the complaint, averaging more than 200,000 calls per day — and the vast majority, nearly 17.5 million, were calls placed to mobile devices, including disruption of medical paging service provider Spōk’s service. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau was also able to tie calls from Roesel’s companies to 44 specific consumer complaints filed around the same time.
“By spoofing his caller ID information, Mr. Roesel made it difficult for consumers to register complaints and for law enforcement entities to track and stop the illegal calls,” the FCC said. It went on to note that in the filing Roesel made in his own defense, he “argues, among other things, that Roesel spoofed the caller ID to avoid having his cell phone ‘overwhelmed’ with return phone calls from consumers that he robocalled—to protect his own phone number from the same kind of disruption he was imposing on consumers.”
Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel approved the action, with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly approving in part and dissenting in part.
In a second case, a Tucson, Arizona-based Affordable Enterprises of Arizona faces a proposed fine of $37.5 million for allegedly using consumers’ phone numbers to disguise its telemarketing calls selling home improvement and remodeling services.
“This is the Commission’s first major enforcement action against a company that apparently commandeered consumers’ phone numbers, an oft-complained about nuisance for Americans,” the FCC said.
During a 14-month period, the FCC says that Affordable Enterprises made 2.3 million “maliciously-spoofed” calls to Arizona residents beginning in 2016.
“The company apparently manipulated the caller ID information so that many calls appeared to come from consumers who were unconnected to the operation,” the FCC said, resulting in one Arizona woman receiving more than five calls a day to her cellular phone from angry people trying to get the telemarketing calls to stop, because the calls appeared to be coming from her number.
“Such calling tactics harm both the consumers receiving the deceptive calls and those whose numbers are essentially commandeered by the telemarketer,” the FCC said. In the Arizona case, the FCC’s investigation began with a whistleblower who was a former employee of the company; Affordable Enterprises now has a chance to respond to the FCC’s allegations and defend itself before the commission makes a final decision to impose penalties up to the proposed amount.