As part of their investigation, the FCC issued subpoenas and spoke to Robocall recipients; meanwhile, robocalls of Indian origin continue to be a headache here and elsewhere.
The United States Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $ 5.13 million fine against conservative activist Jacob Wohl and his associates for 1,141 unlawful robocalls announced on August 25th. This is the highest robocall fine ever proposed by the FCC under the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau investigation found that the calls in this case were apparently recorded and placed on phones without the prior consent required by U.S. law – the TCPA prohibits making pre-recorded voice calls on cell phones without the consent of the recipients of the calls independently the content of the calls. The robocalls in this case, made in August and September of last year before the US presidential election, used messages telling potential voters that if they voted by mail, their “personal information” [would] Be part of a public database used by law enforcement agencies to track down old arrest warrants and credit card companies to collect outstanding debts. ”The FCC began its investigation into consumer complaints and concerns raised by a nonprofit.
Robocalls are one of the largest forms of spam in the US and a growing problem in India as well. Much of the Indian approach focuses on SMS spam. Since the US FCC imposes a multi-million dollar fine in at least one such case, the Indian telecom regulator would do well to be aware of and address the problem here as well. Indian origin robocalls have caused headaches elsewhere in the world with the director of an Ahmedabad-based company plead guilty charged with $ 8 million fraud against Americans. Corresponding Fortune caller, India is among the top ten countries to receive fraudulent calls.
How the case was investigated
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau worked with the Ohio Attorney’s Office to identify two dial-up service providers that were sending subpoena responses to confirm Robocall campaigns and identify the customers they hired for that service. The Bureau used the preloaded call records and the call recordings to determine that the calls were on cordless phones and that the message was pre-recorded. Consumers, who agreed to speak to the office about the calls, confirmed that they had not given the callers any prior consent. The subpoenas also resulted in an email exchange between the dial-up service providers and Wohl and Burkman about the calling campaigns – including choosing the zip codes and the “band we want to spend”.
The calls themselves identified Wohl and Burkman by name and used Burkman’s cell phone number as the caller ID. Wohl and Burkman also admitted under oath their participation in the creation and distribution of the robocalls, with Burkman declaring in the US District Court for the southern borough of New York: “This is our call, yes, yes” with confirmation from Wohl.
- Legal basis of the fine: The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act of 2019 amended the TCPA to include a provision of the law that had previously required the Commission to direct quotations to non-FCC regulated parties that appear to be against the TCPA . These citation requirements did not apply to the truthfulness of the Caller ID Act, which laid down restrictions on caller ID spoofing and according to which the agency imposed numerous, heavy fines.
The proposed action, officially known as the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL), contains only allegations that indicate to a party that they have obviously violated the law and may include a proposed fine. In this case, the Commission cannot impose a higher fine than the amount proposed in the NAL. Neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions in the NAL are final action by the Commission. The parties will be given an opportunity to comment and the Commission will examine the evidence and legal arguments presented by the party before taking any further action to resolve the matter.
India’s fight against spam is stalling
India’s struggle against unsolicited commercial communications has many systems in place, but it is unclear whether this has had an impact.
The biggest change recently was the 2018 Commercial Telecom Consumer Preference Regulation (amendment), which required telecom companies to keep a blockchain ledger of approved telemarketers who had to register before they could send SMS messages.
This strategy failed at the beginning of the year when several banks stopped sending one-time passwords to customers because they or their SMS providers were not registered with the blockchain providers mandated by TRAI. The rules were put on hold for a while, after which enforcement resumed.
This is not the only setback in India’s spam rules. In 2017, TRAI fought with Apple at DND, an app that TRAI had developed in collaboration with Khosla Labs to report SMS spam. This app requires full access to SMS messages on Android as well as iOS, which Apple has found unacceptable. After a few fiery swings, Apple created a reporting API in iMessage itself, and that was that, and DND was launched on iOS as a reporting extension for iMessage.
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