FCC Fines Tele Circuit $4.1M Over Deceptive Telemarketing Scheme

According to a Thursday press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed a penalty on Tele Circuit Network Corporation for switching consumers from their current carrier to Tele Circuit without consent and adding unauthorized charges to consumers’ bills. The forfeiture order principally affirmed the findings associated with a $5.3 million fine that the FCC initially proposed following the conclusion of a consumer complaint-driven investigation in 2018.

The FCC explained that to facilitate its scheme, Tele Circuit called customers of other landline service providers and “discussed a fictitious government program for low-income individuals and senior citizens as a way to solicit consumer consent” or falsely claimed that its telemarketing calls were from the consumer’s current carrier. Following these calls, Tele Circuit switched consumers’ local and long-distance service providers, often called “slamming” and, in some cases, added unauthorized charges to the consumer’s bill, in a practice known as “cramming.”

Some landline users reportedly were left without telephone service for extended periods of time while Tele Circuit refused to reinstate service until the unauthorized charges were fully paid. The press release noted that Tele Circuit’s actions particularly targeted elderly and infirm consumers who filed a substantial proportion of complaints with the FCC, state regulators, and the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit.

“This is not right. It violates the Communications Act. So today we hold this company accountable for its mistreatment of consumers,” acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “To anyone else using our nation’s phone systems to perpetuate this kind of scam, take note because our efforts won’t stop here.”