The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has dropped the hammer on an international network of companies, issuing a staggering fine of nearly $300 million. This record-breaking penalty is in response to the companies’ orchestration of an intrusive robocall campaign that targeted over 500 million phone numbers with five billion calls in just three months of 2021.
The companies, operating under various names including Sumco Panama, Virtual Telecom, Davis Telecom, Geist Telecom, Fugle Telecom, Tech Direct, Mobi Telecom, and Posting Express, violated a litany of robocall prohibitions. They made pre-recorded voice calls to mobile phones without prior express consent, placed telemarketing calls without written consent, and dialed numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Additionally, they failed to identify the caller at the start of the message and did not provide a call-back number for consumers to opt out of future calls. Their telemarketing tactics were not only intrusive but also deceptive. The companies utilized caller ID spoofing tools to hide their actual origin, a clear violation of U.S. laws.
The calls, which began in 2018, were part of a complex scheme promoting the sale of false or misleading vehicle service contracts, often referred to as auto warranties. The ubiquity of these calls led to the creation of an online meme centered around the phrase “we’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty.” The FCC identified Roy M. Cox and Aaron Michael Jones as the key figures behind this operation.
Both individuals had previously been banned from telemarketing activities following lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Texas. Despite these bans, the pair continued their operations, prompting the FCC to take more aggressive measures. In an initial move to halt the telemarketing campaign, the FCC instructed all U.S.-based voice service providers to stop carrying traffic associated with the violating companies. This action resulted in a 99% decrease in auto warranty robocalls. Following this practical resolution, the FCC moved onto the punitive phase. After the implicated companies failed to respond to the FCC’s inquiries, a nearly $300 million fine was imposed. If the companies do not fulfill their payment obligations promptly, the U.S. Department of Justice will step in to ensure the fines are collected, reinforcing the seriousness of these violations and the commitment to protect consumers from such intrusive and deceptive practices.