FCC Fines Health Insurance Telemarketers $225M for Spoofed Robocalls

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the largest fine in its history, levied against two Texas-based telemarketers, John C. Spiller and Jakob A. Mears. The pair reportedly used business names including Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom to transmit more than 1 billion robocalls over a period of five months.

The FCC’s press release explained that many of the calls used other companies’ caller IDs to sell short-term, limited duration health insurance plans, and caused at least one company whose caller IDs were spoofed to “become overwhelmed with angry call-backs from aggrieved consumers.” The calls were also intentionally placed to Americans on the “Do Not Call” list, Spiller admitted, stating that he believed it was more profitable to target those consumers.

Rising Eagle reportedly made calls on behalf of clients like Health Advisors of America, which was sued by the Missouri Attorney General for telemarketing violations in February 2019. The FCC noted that from 2018 onwards, there was an uptick in robocalling complaints related to health insurance and other healthcare products, with approximately 23.6 million robocalls crossing the nation’s four largest wireless networks each day. The agency largely attributed this “unwelcome robocall traffic” to Rising Eagle.

In a statement, acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel commented that “the FCC receives more complaints about robocalls than any other issue.” She further explained that “the individuals involved didn’t just lie about who they were when they made their calls — they said they were calling on behalf of well-known health insurance companies on more than a billion calls. That’s fraud on an enormous scale.”

Rosenworcel also announced the creation of the Robocall Response Team at the FCC. The team will reportedly consist of more than 50 attorneys, economists, engineers, and analysts from the agency’s various bureaus and general counsel’s office. She stated that its first order of business will be to review the commission’s policies, laws, and practices to identify gaps.