Annoying robocalls are difficult for consumers to kill, and in some cases bilk people out of money. One of the robocall companies, which sells timeshares among other things, was hit with a $120 million fine.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fine was against Adrian Abramovich, who operates massive robocall operations. The timeshare calls hit almost 100 million people over a three-month period. The FCC first proposed the fine in mid-2017. In a release on the fine, FCC officials wrote:
In response to the proposed fine, Mr. Abramovich claimed that he had no intent to cause harm, and that the proposed forfeiture amount was unconstitutional.
He did not make a very good case about constitutionality, apparently.
In a greater explanation of the violations, FCC officials reported:
Mr. Abramovich, of Miami, Florida, or companies he controlled, spoofed 96 million robocalls in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages. To increase the likelihood that consumers would answer his calls, Mr. Abramovich’s operation made calls that appeared to be local—a practice known as “neighbor spoofing.” The messages indicated that the calls came from well-known travel or hospitality companies such as Marriott, Expedia, Hilton, and TripAdvisor, and prompted consumers to “Press 1” to hear about “exclusive” vacation deals. Those who did were transferred to foreign call centers where live operators attempted to sell vacation packages—often involving timeshares—at destinations unrelated to the named travel or hospitality companies.
It is too early to analyze whether the decision will affect other companies in the robocall business.