FCC proposes $116 million fine for scheme involving robocalls, traffic pumping and attacks on telephone systems – Telecoms, Mobile and Cable Communications

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In its latest salvo to crack down on illegal robocalls, the FCC has proposed a $116 million fine for an alleged scheme that combines robocalls and traffic pumping to fund phone denial-of-service (TDoS) attacks against other companies. In Thomas Dorsher, ChariTel Inc., Ontel Inc. and ScammerBlaster Inc., Notice of Apparent Liability, FCC 22-57 (rel. July 14, 2022). The alleged scheme involved involved Thomas Dorsher, ChariTel Inc., Ontel Inc. and ScammerBlaster Inc.

As described by the FCC, during a two-month period in early 2021, ChariTel made approximately 10 million pre-recorded voicemail calls (robocalls) to toll-free numbers without the recipients’ consent. If the recipient did not end the call, these robocalls would play the pre-recorded message continuously until 10 a.m., effectively knocking out a line and costing the service provider toll-free the opportunity to speak to real customers on this line. Ironically, the robocalls at issue were meant to be public service announcements to warn against fraudulent calls and encouraged recipients to report such calls.

Each of these robocalls generated revenue for ChariTel under its revenue sharing agreement with its local voice service provider that terminated the calls, which is the type of agreement typically used to pump traffic. Dorsher then apparently used this revenue to fund OnTel, which launched TDoS attacks against other companies. Such attacks are very dangerous as they disable telephone networks and thus can, for example, disrupt 911 service. irony of the whole scheme of using unauthorized robocalls and traffic-pumping funds to serve a (presumed) vision of justice.

FCC Bureau staff investigated 20,650 of the robocalls and verified that they violated TCPA and FCC rules, and the FCC concluded that the violation was willful and intentional. Based on the flagrant nature of the conduct, the NAL is proposing an increased penalty of $5,625 per violation (up from the normal base of $4,500), leading to the proposed total fine of $116 million. The NAL also concludes that Thomas Dorsher and ChariTel are directly liable for the breach, finding the substantiated evidence piercing the corporate veil as to Dorsher, and that OnTel and ScammerBlaster are jointly and severally liable for the penalty, as they were part of a common agreement. business and acted as a single business entity.

As this NAL reconfirms, alongside the recent initiation of legal action against those responsible for billions of robocalls for auto warranties, the FCC, armed with the powers conferred on it by the TRACED Act to fight against illegal robocalls, is more than serious about this consumer protection. priority.

Disclaimer: This alert has been prepared and posted for informational purposes only and is not offered and should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, please see the full disclaimer.

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