FCC has fined robocallers millions but collected just a few grand, says report

In four years, illegal telemarketers have reportedly ponied up less than $7,000 to the FCC.

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Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown

Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman.

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Almost everyone would agree that robocalls are annoying, and the Federal Communications Commission has been ramping up efforts to crack down on illegal calls.

Since 2015, the FCC has ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which governs telemarketers and robocalling, to pay a total of $208.4 million, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. So far, the government has collected only $6,790, according to the Journal.

The FCC didn't immediately respond for comment but told the Journal that fines are meant to penalize bad conduct and deter future misconduct. The spokesman said unpaid penalties are passed on to the Justice Department, which has the authority to collect fines.

The Federal Trade Commission is also seeking repayment for victims of illegal robocalling, Do Not Call Registry violations and telephone solicitation violations. The total amount won by the FTC for these violation cases since 2004 is $1.5 billion. But it's only collected $121 million of that amount, Ian Barlow, coordinator of the agency's Do Not Call program, told the Journal.

On Wednesday,  the FTC cracked down on four companies were responsible for billions of robocalls offering scam services in violation of the FTC Act. 

Watch this: Apple acknowledges keyboard issue, FTC shuts down robocall companies