October 26, 2022

FCC Seeks to Remove Non-Compliant Service Providers From the RMD 

FCC Seeks to Remove Non-Compliant Service Providers From the RMD

Consumers, the FCC, and legitimate call centers are still waging war against robocalls. Recent legislation has produced results, but some scammers and spammers are still flourishing. STIR/SHAKEN has decreased robocalls, but RMD non-compliant network service providers still allow bad actors to connect to U.S. consumers. To address this problem, the FCC has announced it will take further measures to punish RMD non-compliant service providers.

FCC Moves to Expel Non-Compliant Providers

Effective October 2022, the FCC announced it would begin removing voice service providers from the Robocall Mitigation Database (RMD) if they do not meet compliance obligations. This move will effectively expel non-compliant service providers from U.S. phone networks, reducing the number of robocalls to consumers and warning other service providers to get in line.

Stiff fines and other penalties have not been enough deterrence for some service providers, so the FCC has targeted seven carriers for removal from the RMD. These carriers are: 

  • Akabis
  • Cloud4
  • Global UC
  • Horizon Technology Group
  • Morse Communications
  • Sharon Telephone Company
  • SW Arkansas Telecommunications and Technology

These companies were given two weeks to up their compliance efforts; otherwise, the order to remove them from RMD will result in compliant carriers blocking their incoming calls. RMD non-compliant service providers are finally suffering real consequences for their law-breaking behavior.

What Is the Robocall Mitigation Database?

The RMD is a federal database that requires service providers to file certifications about their efforts to combat robocalls. Implemented in September 2021, the RMD required telecommunication companies to block all traffic from any server not registered with the RMD.

The RMD works with STIR/SHAKEN to identify potential robocalls and make it difficult for them to reach consumers. This process does not always work correctly, however. Some legitimate companies suffer from erroneous call blocking. Now, RMD non-compliant service providers must immediately begin following the regulations or end up removed from the list, making doing business difficult, if not impossible.

Fines for TCPA Violations

With the passage of the TRACED Act, fines and enforcement penalties increased for violations of the TCPA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Mandating these increased penalties is an effective way to promote compliance with FCC regulations. Just this last year, the FCC handed out some hefty fines to violators of the TCPA.

John Burkman and Jacob Wohl

Burkman and Wohl are conspiracy theorists and conservative activists responsible for launching hundreds of robocalls that disseminated false 2020 election information. These calls told voters that voting by mail would result in their personal information being used by the police to enforce warrants and by debt collectors to collect outstanding balances. The purpose was to keep voting turnout low.

In October 2021, the FCC proposed a fine of over $5 million for these two individuals. 

Interstate Brokers

Interstate Brokers, a Florida lead generator, is facing a $45 million fine for placing more than 500,000 illegal robocalls “without an emergency purpose or the consumer’s prior express consent.” These calls promoted false claims concerning the COVID-19 pandemic to pressure consumers into buying health insurance products. 

Dealer Renewal Services

This company placed 28 robocalls to the same consumer in Texas. The consumer sued the company under the TCPA and was awarded almost $250,000. The company executives did not show up to court, and the judge found they had violated several regulations, including placing robocalls without consent, violating the DNC list, and failing to register with the Texas Secretary of State, a requirement in Texas.

Despite these increased penalties and more vigorous enforcement efforts, robocalls continue to plague consumers. This sad reality led to the FCC’s decision to remove non-compliant service providers from the RMD. Compliant carriers will block calls from these companies, so their “business efforts” will be seriously crippled. 

Further Regulations for Spam Texts

Enhanced efforts to stop robocalls have had an unfortunate side effect: the rise of spam texts. Since the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, these texts have multiplied, partly negating the crackdown on robocalls. Sometimes these scammers launch a long string of texts at once or text daily until the consumer blocks the number. 

In response, the FCC has recently approved a proposal to mitigate spam texts. This measure will investigate whether the following regulations should be implemented:

  • Allowing third-party analytics providers to disclose text-blocking efforts
  • Enforcing authentication efforts for text messages similar to those now in place for phone calls

While this proposal will not be fully approved for at least several months, it lays the groundwork for better consumer protection from spam texts, which can be as harmful, if not more so, as spam/scam robocalls.

FCC Enforces Accountability

The FCC is finally ready to hold RMD non-compliant service providers accountable by levying steep fines and removing them from the RMD database. This move will immediately and devastatingly affect these non-compliant companies since RMD-compliant service providers will block their calls. In an annoying game of Whack a Mole, the FCC now has to deal with a deluge of spam texts that have followed increased robocall enforcement efforts. The consumer protection battle continues.