Pending contestant heroics, the FTC still faces a challenge to keep robocalls in check, according to recent testimony.
Lois Greisman, associate director of the Commission’s Division of Marketing Practices, said the agency uses “every tool at its disposal” to combat illegal robocalls in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance.
While the agency has been vigilant in its efforts to enforce the Telemarketing Sales Rule, Greisman said that technology has aided robocallers in their efforts. Not only is it easier for robocallers to hide using Caller ID spoofing devices, but they can also avoid the reach of the agency by locating outside the United States. In addition, technology has made robocalling much cheaper, she added.
The Do Not Call program has been “enormously successful in protecting consumers,” Greisman said, with more than 221 million numbers currently listed on the registry. The agency devotes resources to enforcement actions and has filed 105 actions since 2004 that resulted in more than $126 million in civil penalties and $741 million in redress or disgorgement. Most recently, perfectly timed with the Do Not Call Registry’s 10th Anniversary, the FTC announced the largest civil penalty ever assessed for a TSR violation – $7.5 million against a company that allegedly scammed current and former members of the Armed Forces with false mortgage-related money saving claims.
In addition to targeting the robocallers themselves, Greisman explained that the agency has taken action against third parties that facilitate their illegal activity, such as companies that provide the software for auto-dialers and payment processors. “The Commission seeks to identify and attack chokepoints for illegal telemarketing,” Greisman said.
Law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem, she added. Consumer education remains a priority for the FTC. The agency held a Robocall Summit last year with members of the industry to brainstorm solutions to the problem. It also launched the Robocall Challenge, which offered a prize for the best technical solution to block robocalls.
To read Greisman’s prepared statement, click here.
Why it matters: Greisman concluded her testimony by noting that the agency must “remain agile and creative” and continue its multifaceted approach to fighting illegal robocalls. She listed four avenues: aggressive law enforcement, efforts to spur innovation, ongoing consumer education, and work with Congress.