By Stephanie K. Mann, J.D.
The Senate Commerce Committee convened a hearing today to examine the problem of malicious spoofing and abusive robocalls designed to defraud consumers and to explore the measures being taken by the government and industry to protect consumers. The hearing, entitled "Abusive Robocalls and How We Can Stop Them," was intended to identify where such calls are coming from, how they work, and the steps that can be taken to deter them from happening.
Testifying before the committee, FTC Division of Marketing Practices Associate Director Lois Greisman said that during fiscal year 2017, the FTC received more than 4.5 million complaints about robocalls. According to Greisman, recent changes in technology have enabled calls to be made more cheaply and on a larger scale than ever before, leading to increased consumer frustration.
Since the FTC began enforcing the Do Not Call provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, Greisman testified that the Commission has brought 135 enforcement actions seeking civil penalties, restitution for victims of telemarketing scams, and disgorgement of "ill-gotten gains" against 439 corporations and 356 individuals. Of the 125 cases that have been resolved so far, more than $121 million in monetary relief has been collected.
Combating violators. To combat robocall violators, which includes almost all telemarketing robocalls since Sept. 1, 2009, the FTC has taken the following actions:
- over the last three years, the FTC has brought 11 new actions targeting defendants responsible for making billions of illegal robocalls;
- actively coordinated with law enforcement partners, technical experts, industry, and other stakeholders;
- worked closely with federal law enforcement partners to conduct robocall enforcement "sweeps;"
- along with the Federal Communications Commission, co-hosted a Joint Policy Forum to discuss the regulatory and enforcement challenges posed by illegal robocalls; and
- sought new strategies in coordination with technical experts, industry leaders, and other stakeholders.
Finally, Greisman’s testimony details the FTC’s new data initiatives to help facilitate technological solutions to stop illegal robocalls, the newly re-designed National DNC Registry Data Book, and the FTC’s significant education efforts to help consumers avoid and prevent unwanted calls.
Additional hearing. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s digital commerce and consumer protection subcommittee postponed its hearing on Do-Not-Call, robocalling, and caller ID spoofing issues, which had been scheduled for Thursday. No new date was announced.
MainStory: TopStory ConsumerProtection FederalTradeCommissionNews
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