Escalating efforts to crack down on illegal robocalls, state attorneys general announced on August 2 that they have established a nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force. The task force comprises attorneys general from all 50 states and will investigate and prosecute companies suspected of allowing or using illegal robocalls from foreign entities. While the states have a long history of engaging in telemarketing enforcement, this effort represents a new level of commitment.
Already, the task force has issued 20 civil investigative commands to 20 companies. The companies have not been publicly identified.
The task force will be led by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Attorney General Stein filed a lawsuit earlier this year against gateway service provider Articul8 for routing 65 million alleged scam calls to North Carolina phone numbers, bringing claims under the Telemarketing Sales Rule and North Carolina’s Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The court entered default judgment against Articul8 in late February.
This endeavor builds on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) latest efforts to reduce the numbers of scam calls. In May, the FCC voted to require telecommunications providers to take steps to block illegal calls coming from outside the U.S., noting that most of the illegal robocalls to U.S. consumers originate overseas or come through gateway providers. The FCC had signed memoranda of understanding with 36 states and the District of Columbia at that time, all of which had pledged to investigate robocalls. With the creation of the task force, the remaining states have come on board.
Companies can expect to see increased enforcement efforts as the task force ramps up. It remains to be seen whether lawsuits, such as the one against Articul8, bringing claims for general failure to stop otherwise illegal robocalls, rather than for any technical violation of the FCC’s STIR/SHAKEN protocols, will succeed on the merits. Telemarketing enforcement is one of the rare consumer protection areas where the states can band together and file collectively in federal court to enforce federal law.
Troutman Pepper offers a robust Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Telemarketing Sales Rule, and state telemarketing compliance and litigation practice and dedicated state attorneys general team, providing counseling and handling investigations and litigation nationwide. Troutman Pepper will continue to monitor the task force’s activities and report on major developments.