The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to impose a $120 million fine on a Florida man who allegedly made nearly 100 million robocalls to trick consumers into purchasing "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel companies.
The FCC proposed the fine in June 2017, alleging that Adrian Abramovich had made 96 million robocalls during a three-month period in 2016. The commission finalized the penalty at its monthly open meeting. Chairman Ajit Pai and commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel approved the measure, while Commissioner Michael O'Rielly approved it in part and dissented in part.
Abramovich told a Senate panel in April that he was "not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged." He denied any "fraudulent activities" and said he was engaging in legitimate telemarketing practices by offering real vacation deals. He declined to answer some questions about his case, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The FCC accused the Florida man of tricking consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies, like Hilton and Marriott. The agency has said he led "one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- illegal robocalling campaigns that the commission has ever investigated."
Consumers get nearly 2.5 billion robocalls a month. The FCC has said it gets more than 200,000 complaints each year about unwanted calls. And the Federal Trade Commission said it received roughly 5.3 million complaints about telemarketing calls in 2016.
"Americans are mad as hell" that they still get these calls even after efforts by Congress and the FCC to stop them, Pai said last year.
In November, the FCC approved new rules to protect consumers against unwanted robocalls. The commission has also been working on other ways to limit what it calls the "scourge" of unwanted calls. But some lawmakers want the FCC to go further.
Rosenworcel, the lone Democrat on the FCC since Mignon Clyburn stepped down last month, said the FCC needs to do more. On Thursday, she took to Twitter to make her point.
"Today @FCC imposes penalty on a bad actor who made millions of #robocalls two years ago," she wrote. "But there were 3.4 billion robocalls last month. It's going to take a lot more than this. Because emptying the ocean with a teaspoon is not enough when we are drowning in nuisance calls."
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