FCC Fines Robocaller $2.88 Million

O'Rielly dissents, saying ruling stretches consumer protection law

A politically divided FCC has voted to impose a $2.88 million forfeiture on Dialing Services LLC, which the FCC found had made over 4.7 million nonemergency robocalls to wireless phones without express prior consent.

Republican Michael O'Rielly dissented from the decision.

The FCC initially proposed, in 2014, a $2.9 million fine against the company, but Doaling Services identified four instances where the calls were not a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, so the FCC reduced the figure in the final forfeiture order voted Thursday (July 13).

O'Rielly outlined some of his issues, saying the FCC was punishing a technology and its operator, rather than the companies directly making the illegal robocalls. He called it a far stretch of the law, likening it to suing gun manufacturers for horrible acts.

He said the TCPA applies to actual callers, not the technology. He also said the FCC's new test for who is actually responsible for an illegal robocall is wanting in various respects.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has made it clear that illegal robocallers are in the FCC's sites, but O'Rielly has suggested that the FCC is using too broad a brush and not sufficiently recognizing the benefits of some types of robocalls. He asked whether the goal was compliance of enforcement victories.

O'Rielly said he was worried about the chilling precedential impact of the decision on other tech platforms.

Pai said consumers are a top priority, and the fine is meant to further that goal. He said the company was not the unwitting conduit, as it claimed to be, and directly helps clients conceal their real intentions in the calls. He said they are not a merely passive actor.

Pai also said this may be the latest effort to stop the "scourge" of robocalls, but would not be the last.

Last month, the FCC proposed an almost $120 million fine against robocaller Adrian Abramovich of Miami.