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FCC proposes historic fine for telemarketers who made 1 billion robocalls

FCC proposes historic fine for telemarketers who made 1 billion robocalls
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday proposed its largest-ever fine against two health insurance telemarketers for spamming 1 billion people with robocalls using fake phone numbers.

The FCC said in documents for the $225 million fine that John Spiller and Jakob Mears were responsible for the calls through two different companies: Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom.

Spiller and Mears will have the opportunity to respond to the FCC's proposed fine.

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The state attorneys general of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas all sued the two men, along with their companies, in federal court in Texas, where Spiller and Mears reside, for violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The FCC said the robocalls offered plans from insurers like Aetna or UnitedHealth via an automated message. However, if consumers pressed a button, they would be transferred to a call center that sold unrelated plans.

The communications regulator added that last year, the attorney general of Missouri sued Rising Eagle's biggest client, Health Advisors of America, over telemarketing violations.

The FCC said that for more than four months in the early part of 2019, the telemarketers concealed their caller ID using fake numbers, with the intent to deceive customers while purposefully calling people on the national do-not-call list.

The telemarketers would also call mobile phones without first obtaining permission, according to the FCC. In addition, they would fake the appearance of calls to make them look like they were coming from other companies.

JSquared did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Hill was unable to contact Rising Eagle.

A recently passed law does not stop robocalls completely but adds reinforcement efforts to crack down on them, including disallowing the phone industry to charge for call-blocking utilities and implements a system to identify fake numbers.

Updated at 3:29 p.m.