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FCC waves big fines at political robocallers

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The US Federal Communications Commission has cited two robocalling operations used for political calls and says the companies have 15 days to stop or they will get fined $4.8m and/or $16,000 per call.

"Consumers have increasingly been sounding the alarm on robocalls, rightly complaining about unwanted, intrusive cell phone calls and text messages from strangers, or worse yet computers," said Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC's enforcement bureau said in a statement. "These citations set the stage for significant monetary penalties if violations continue,"

The two operations, Dialing Services (which was acting for the Republicans) and Richard Gilmore's company, Democratic Dialing (guess who they work for?), have been investigated by the FCC since last year, and the FCC has now put the hammer down. If they carry on spamming calls, the agency warns it will shut them down.

US politicians splashed out over $6bn in last year's election cycle, and robocalls made up a reasonable – and highly annoying - proportion of that. In the case of these companies, the FCC is particularly ticked off because they targeted mobile-phone users.

Robocalls are allowed to contact mobile phones but only in an emergency situation, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Furthermore, the FCC's checks showed that none of the recipients had given their prior consent to being called.

The FCC has been cracking the whip on robocallers of late. It's currently offering $50,000 in prizes to people who can come up with a way to safely block the practice, and it shut down five operations in the last year. ®

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