The Federal Communications Commission has collected just $6,790 since it began fining robocallers and other telemarketing violators in 2015, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.
FCC regulators have ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to pay $208.4 million, but the agency is having trouble collecting the fines.
The Journal reported Monday that the FTC is also having difficulty enforcing fines related to unwanted phone solicitations. The FTC has collected just $121 million out of $1.5 billion in fines related to court judgments since 2004.
Both the FCC and FTC are facing challenges in collecting fines because small outfits can often shut down and change their names, according to the report. In addition, some of these outfits are based overseas.
An FCC spokesperson explained to the Journal that the agency lacks the power to enforce the forfeiture orders that it issues and has passed all of the unpaid penalties to the Justice Department, which has the power to collect fines.
The disparity between fines and the sums that are eventually coIlected by the federal government is sometimes due to the nature of civil litigation. In some court cases, the FTC will receive a judgment for a certain fine and then settle for a smaller fine.
The Journal cited the case of two offenders in California who faced fines of $2.7 million in a civil suit brought by the FTC. The case was settled for $225,000 or less if the defendants agreed to certain financial disclosures.
Unwanted robocalls have become a plague on mobile phone users, with figures varying as to how many of these unsolicited calls are made each year.
The Journal reported that 26.3 billion unwanted robocalls were made to U.S. mobile phones in 2018, according to the app Hiya. But another estimate by YouMail, Inc. puts the figure closer to 48 billion.