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FCC Imposes Major Fines for Calling Violations

Mark W. Brennan

Mark W. Brennan,

Washington, D.C.

Austin Bonner

02 June 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a pair of significant Do-Not-Call and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) enforcement action settlements.  The actions serve as a reminder to organizations of the need to review their business practices regularly for compliance with the FCC’s calling and text messaging restrictions.

As part of the first settlement, the caller has agreed to pay a record $7.5 million to resolve an investigation by the FCC Enforcement Bureau into the company’s failure to honor consumer requests to opt out of receiving phone and text marketing communications.  (The FCC’s rules give consumers the right to opt out of telemarketing communications by putting their phones numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry or a company-specific registry.)  The caller has also agreed to implement a two-year compliance plan that includes training and reporting requirements.  As part of that plan, it will designate a senior manager as a Compliance Officer to ensure that the company meets it obligations under the consent decree.

The FCC also announced plans to impose a $2.9 million fine on Dialing Services, LLC, an online service that offers robocalling services directly to third-party customers, including political candidates.  Clients hire Dialing Services to make calls that deliver artificial or prerecorded voice messages to telephone numbers of the clients’ choosing.  The company advertises that its services allow clients to “[r]each thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers with your personal message.”

In March 2013, Dialing Services received a citation from the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau for making more than 4.7 million robocalls to mobile phones without obtaining the consumers’ consent during the 2012 election cycle.  Under the TCPA, callers must obtain the “prior express consent” of the called party before using an autodialer to contact a wireless telephone number.  Dialing Services was warned that if continued to make unlawful robocalls in the future that it could be held liable for penalties up to $16,000 per call.  After an investigation, the FCC concluded that Dialing Services continued to engage in the same unlawful practices, making it liable for at least 184 additional robocalls to consumers’ mobile phones.  The FCC’s proposed fine is the maximum forfeiture amount for these 184 calls.

Hogan Lovells has a TCPA working group that includes 20 litigation, FCC/communications, and privacy lawyers with substantial experience in the TCPA, and we have advised and litigated on a wide variety of TCPA issues. For more information, please visit www.hoganlovells.com/tcpa.

Mark W. Brennan

Mark W. Brennan,

Washington, D.C.

Austin Bonner

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