According to Ars Technica, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined scammers $208 million over the last four years for robocalling, Do Not Call Registry, and telephone solicitation violations. The Wall Street Journal, however, made a Freedom of Information Act request and found that they have collected on only $6,790 of money owed by robocallers. The Justice Department has declined to comment.
“An FCC spokesman said his agency lacks the authority to enforce the forfeiture orders it issues and has passed all unpaid penalties to the Justice Department, which has the power to collect the fines,” the Journal report said. “Many of the spoofers and robocallers the agency tries to punish are individuals and small operations, [the spokesman] added, which means they are at times unable to pay the full penalties.”
Of the $202 million that the FCC has ordered robocallers to pay since Ajit Pai became chairman in 2017, none has been paid. The Federal Trade Commission has issued penalties amounting to $1.5 billion since 2004 but has received only $121 million.
“The dearth of financial penalties collected by the US government for violations of telemarketing and auto-dialing rules shows the limits the sister regulators [FCC and FTC] face in putting a stop to illegal robocalls,” the Journal wrote. “It also shows why the threat of large fines can fail to deter bad actors.”
One of the reasons that it’s so difficult to enforce the fines is that the perpetrators are scammers and overseas operators rather than large companies with legitimate assets in the US.
When the FCC formally fines a robocaller, it “informs the company of the alleged unlawful activity, establishes the maximum penalty that could be assessed for that violation, and provides the company with an opportunity to contest the allegations,” according to a spokesman.