FTC announces crackdowns on robocallers


As part of its fight against illegal robocalls, the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday announced a slew of lawsuits and other measures it and 25 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies — including in Los Angeles — have taken against operations it said were responsible for more than 1 billion of the prerecorded calls.

The operation included civil and criminal lawsuits from recent months, as well as warnings and cease-and-desist letters. In one of the civil cases, brought in part by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, debt-collection firm Allied Interstate and its parent company, IQor Holdings Inc., agreed to pay $9 million to settle allegations that it sometimes called individuals hundreds of times a day, among other issues.

Ian Barlow of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection declined to comment on the specific effect the crackdown may have on the volume of robocalls people receive.


Los Angeles residents received nearly 5 million robocalls a day in May, according to YouMail, an Irvine company that makes robocall-blocking software. The company estimates that nearly 48 billion robocalls were made nationwide last year, up about 57% from 2017, and predicts the volume will grow 25% this year.

In the past, the FTC has promoted the development of private-industry fixes to robocalling, including sponsoring software competitions. In 2015, the agency awarded a $25,000 cash prize to a team that developed an app, called Robokiller, that blocks robocalls or forwards them to a data-collection center. Barlow said the market for call-blocking apps and solutions is now “quite mature.”

Emily Rusch, executive director of the California Public Interest Research Group, said robocalls are among the top complaints that her consumer advocacy organization receives.

“For so many consumers, the rise of robocalls is maddening and obnoxious,” Rusch said. “What’s worse is that many of these calls can be financial scams that seriously impact people’s lives.”

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans reported losing money to a phone scam during the 12-month period that ended in April, up from 1 in 10 a year earlier, according to caller ID company Truecaller.

Both Rusch and Barlow said they hope that new caller ID authentication protocols will help stem the rising tide of spam calls. Although the technology has been successfully tested by Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc., it has yet to be implemented across the telecommunications industry. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai issued a warning to major carriers in February that his agency would “consider regulatory intervention” if the new protocols weren’t adopted within a year.