FCC Proposes $116M Fine Against Traffic Pumping Robocall Scheme Operators

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a nine-figure penalty against Thomas Dorsher and several of his companies including ChariTel Inc., over allegations that they made almost 10 million robocalls, illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The pre-recorded calls, part of a “traffic pumping scheme,” reportedly targeted businesses, and ironically, warned them of the dangers of illegal robocalls.

An FCC enforcement arm worked with the Industry Traceback Group to trace the calls to Dorsher and ChariTel, the latter of which purports to “deliver free marketing campaigns to charities and other Non Profit organizations,” the press release said. The investigative body concluded that the respondents made the calls, pre-recorded voice messages that claimed to be a “Public Service Announcement” about the danger of robocalls, within a two-month period earlier this year.

Further, ChariTel was said to have generated income from the robocalls that it placed to toll free numbers as part of a revenue sharing arrangement with its voice service provider. Because the toll free provider passes the incurred cost on to the toll free subscriber, traffic pumping schemes, though not themselves illegal, are “costly to industry and consumers,” the FCC commented.

The respondents apparently used the revenue sharing funds to launch telephone denial of service (TDoS) attacks to “debilitate the telecommunication systems of entities [Dosher] suspected of making illegal robocalls while employing inadequate verification methods to confirm that was the case.” The FCC noted that such attacks are dangerous as they can disrupt emergency services.

After subpoenaing the relevant entities and conducting its investigation, the FCC now proposes the $116 million fine with a base forfeiture of $4,500 per each allegedly unlawful robocall. Dosher and ChariTel have the opportunity to respond to the FCC, which will consider their submission of evidence and legal arguments before taking further action.