On August 3, 2023, the US Federal Communications Commission imposed a $299,997,000 fine on ten companies for making over five billion illegal robocalls. Prerecorded calls made by the international network of companies purported to offer consumers the opportunity to extend their existing car warranties. The calls were made without the prior express written consent of the recipients, some of whom were on the National Do Not Call Registry; moreover, the callers had no connection with the call recipients’ vehicle warranties (if existent), but rather were attempting to sell new vehicle service contracts.
The FCC found that the companies involved in the robocalls had intentionally violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and its implementing rules by placing the telemarketing calls without the recipients’ consent, and by failing to include the disclosures required by the law. The FCC also determined that the companies’ conduct violated the Truth in Caller ID Act and the implementing rules therefor, by transmitting misleading caller ID information in order to induce consumers to answer the phone.
The FCC held the companies jointly and severally liable under the enterprise liability doctrine. In support of the finding that the ten named companies constituted a single enterprise, the FCC cited several factors:
- Members of the alleged enterprise acted on behalf of one another in furtherance of a common goal;
- Different members held different assets and provided different services in support of that goal;
- The various entities presented themselves to the FCC as a unified entity, and;
- The parent company directed the interrelationship between the subsidiaries to achieve the common purpose.
In light of these findings, the FCC issued a forfeiture order calculated on the basis of $4,500 for each of the 33,333 unlawful robocalls verified by the FCC, adjusted upward by 100 percent because many of the calls were made in violation of the requirements of the National Do No Call Registry, and constituted egregious violations of the Truth in Caller ID Act.