WASHINGTON – On June 22, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the FCC Legal Enforcement Act, legislation that would provide the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more authority to hold robocallers accountable.
Specifically, the legislation would provide the FCC with the authority to commence court proceedings to recover penalties and fines against those in violation of Section 227 of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
“Predatory robocalls are not only a nuisance to the American people, but they cause substantial financial harm through scams and deception,” said Matsui. “The FCC is working hard to crack down on criminal robocallers, but we need to give regulators the authority to truly take these efforts to the finish line. The FCC Legal Enforcement Act would provide the FCC the legal footing to address these growing threats and protect American consumers from these fraudulent practices.”
“Every American with a phone knows how annoying it is to be bombarded by robocalls that only offer unwanted scams and threats to personal privacy,” said Lujan. “Robocalls aren’t just a nuisance, they also defraud Americans out of millions of dollars every year. In 1991, Congress passed much-needed legislation to protect Americans through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, but this legislation failed to provide the FCC with the legal authority to enforce violations of the law. That’s why I’m introducing the FCC Legal Enforcement Act to empower the Commission to hold telecom companies accountable for their disruption in American’s lives using robocalls.”
In 1991, in an effort to address a growing number of telephone marketing calls, Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which restricts the making of telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems (robocallers) and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. The rules apply to common carriers as well as to other marketers.
Although the FCC has the authority to conduct investigations and issue fines/penalties for violations of the TCPA, the commission lacks the authority to go into court to collect the fines. That authority lies with the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, the DOJ may take up to five years to decide whether to pursue a case related to a violation of the TCPA. In that time, violators have hidden assets or disappeared altogether.
The FCC Legal Enforcement Act provides the FCC with the authority to commence court proceedings to recover penalties/fines against those in violation of the TCPA. Violations of the TCPA are still referred to the Department of Justice first, but if after 120 days the DOJ refuses to pursue the case, the FCC can commence its own action.