The FCC has a fine robocallers $208 million. It collected $6,790.

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America’s telecommunications watchdogs have imposed strong financial sanctions against illegal robocallers and demanded that bad actors millions to refund to their victims. But in later years, little money has collected.

Since 2015, the Federal Communications Commission has ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the law on telemarketing and robodialing, to pay $208.4 million. That amount contains the so-called cancellation of orders in cases where robocalling, do Not Call Registry, and a telephone request violations.


So far, the government has collected $6,790 of that amount, according to the data obtained by The Wall Street Journal through a freedom of information act request.

The total amount of money that is secured by the Federal Trade Commission by the court in its judgments in the cases concerning the civil penalties for robocalls or National do Not Call Registry-related offenses, plus the sum asked for the redress of the consumer in fraud-related matters, a $1.5 billion since 2004. It has collected $121 million in total, said Ian Barlow, coordinator of the agency’s No Call program, or about 8%. The agency works with the National do Not Call Registry, and regulates telemarketing.

“That number stands on its own. We are proud; we think that our enforcement program is quite strong,” Mr Barlow said.

An FCC spokesman said that his agency lacks the authority to enforce the confiscation orders it issues and is successful for all unpaid fines at the Ministry of Justice, which has the power to collect the fines. Many of the counterfeiters and robocallers, the agency is trying to punish for individuals and small operations, he added, which means that they are sometimes not able to pay the fines.

“Penalties serve to punish bad behavior and deter future misconduct,” the FCC spokesman said. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice, which is at or drop cases, declined to comment.


The lack of financial penalties collected by the U.S. government for violations of the telemarketing and auto-dialing rules shows the boundaries of the nurse supervisors face in stopping illegal robocalls. It also shows why the threat of large fines may not deter bad actors.

“It is great that we have these laws; it is great that we the public enforcement, but because there are so many calls and so many callers, the public enforcement is a joke,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the consumer advocacy group National Consumer Law Center. “It doesn’t even have a dent.”

There were 26.3 billion unwanted robocalls made to the AMERICAN mobile phones in 2018, by a measure of robocall-blocking the app Hiya. Another company that offers such services, YouMail Inc., put the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls made in the US last year is even higher, at nearly 48 billion.

Read more of this story in The Wall Street Journal, where it was published for the first time.

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