The FCC has proposed its largest illegal robocall fine ever — a $45 million fine against telemarketing company Interstate Brokers of America. According to the commission, the company conducted an illegal robocall campaign to sell health insurance under the pretense that the annual enrollment period had been reopened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The FCC is using fines and other measures to attempt to put a damper on illegal robocalls.
According to the FCC’s complaint, Interstate Brokers of America apparently made 514,467 unlawful robocalls without subscribers’ prior express consent or an emergency purpose, resulting in the proposed Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) robocall fine.
In its investigation, the FCC sampled 10,000 calls and confirmed with the dialing platform provider that the calls were pre-recorded messages. The commission also spoke with several call recipients who confirmed they had not provided consent to be called.
Interstate Brokers is a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based lead generator operated by Gregory Robbins and which also does business as National Health Agents.
According to the complaint, the company bought lists of phone numbers from third-party vendors and obtained numbers from consumers looking for health insurance quotes online without clearly disclosing that consumers who provided their contact information would be subject to robocalls.
Here’s how the scheme worked, according to an FCC press release about the largest robocall fine:
“The company left prerecorded voice messages marketing its clients’ insurance plans. Voice recognition software would identify when a consumer answered the call. If a consumer responded by pressing a number on their phone, or by staying on hold, the system automatically transferred the call to a call center operated by Interstate Brokers. Consumers were then offered insurance products sold by one of several insurance companies that had hired Interstate Brokers.”
Among the company’s prerecorded voice message was one stating: “Many states’ opened enrollment options to combat the COVID-19 virus and our plans include telemedicine services that would allow you to see a doctor over the phone or a video that could treat common sickness like the cold and flu. Give me a call back, at our phone number … and I can go over what is still available in your area.”