Roy M. Cox and Aaron Michaels Jones ran a complex international scheme to sell auto service contracts under the guise of selling warranties. The pair made over five billion auto warranty calls during a robocalling spree in only three months in 2021. They targeted over 500 million phone numbers using more than one million caller ID numbers to trick people into answering. The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Texas already issued Cox and Jones a lifetime ban from making telemarketing calls.
This network is the largest illegal robocall operation the FCC has ever investigated. The web is guilty of violating federal statutes, FCC regulations, and violating federal spoofing laws. The group broke robocall prohibitions by conducting pre-recorded calls without written consent, failing to identify the caller at the beginning of the message. It didn’t provide a call-back number so people could opt out of further calls. Those on the National Do Not Call Registry also received harassing robocalls with no way to stop them.
Spoofing tricks people into answering their phones by posing as potentially important calls. The network ran under Sumco Panama, Virtual Telecom, Davis Telecom, Geist Telecom, Fugle Telecom, Tech Direct, Mobi Telecom, and Posting Express.
The enormity of the fine shows the FCC is not cutting anyone any slack regarding robocalls, much to the relief of recipients of said calls.
“We take seriously our responsibility to protect consumers and the integrity of US communications networks from the onslaught of these types of pernicious calls,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan A. Egal said.
Robocalls are against the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The FCC Robocall Response Team formed new partnerships with Hawaii and New Mexico. Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, and Guam signed the Memoranda of Understanding to share information with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.
In 2022, the FCC ordered all US-based voice service providers to ban traffic connected to members of this network. Recurrence dropped by 99%.
“I want to thank the Enforcement Bureau’s Telecommunications Consumers Division for its groundbreaking work on this case, and we will continue to work with our federal and state partners to hold these entities and others engaged in similar conduct accountable,” Egal said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the penalty in billions instead of millions, and got the number wrong.