In an effort to stop illegal robocalls, a majority of which data show originate from overseas, the Federal Trade Commission has recently sent letters to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, warning that they must work to keep illegal robocalls out of the country.

The FTC sent these letters in connection with its Project Point of No Entry (PoNE), through which the Commission is targeting foreign-based scammers responsible for blasting American consumers with unwanted calls.  To do so, the FTC identifies “point of entry” or gateway service providers that are routing or transmitting illegal call traffic; demands they stop doing so; and then monitors them, including by opening law enforcement investigations and filing lawsuits when appropriate.  In an April press release, the FTC pointed to quantifiable results showing that Project PoNE is having a significant impact in the fight to stop illegal robocalls. 

The letters—recently sent to Telecall Communications, Corp., Telco Connection, Tata Communications (America) Inc., iDentidad Advertising Development, LLC, CenturyLink Communications, LLC, Bandwidth Inc. and Acrobat Communications, Inc., among others—assert that the recipients are knowingly routing and transmitting illegal robocall traffic for entities involved in certain campaigns.  Such activity, warns the FTC, violates the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), which prohibits deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices, including “assisting and facilitating” certain specified conduct. 

The FTC can obtain civil penalties for TSR violations, with each illegal call subject to a maximum civil penalty of $50,120.  Additionally, the FTC can seek injunctive relief and the refund of money or payment of damages to address TSR violations.

As Project PoNE indicates, combatting illegal telemarketing is a top priority for the FTC.  It has, for example, brought assisting and facilitating claims against technology companies that knowingly provided software and servers used by illegal robocallers, and it has also sued VoIP service providers for allegedly violating the TSR.  In addition to FTC actions, the United States Department of Justice, state AGs and other agencies have brought civil actions against VoIP companies and their owners.