- Lemberg Law
- Revealing FCC Data on Robocalls and Telemarketing Calls
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is tasked with regulating interstate communications, so the agency is primarily concerned with overseeing radio, television, telephone, satellite, and cable practices. The FCC is one of several federal agencies (including the CPFB and the FTC) that log consumer complaints. The regulator handles consumer complaints that broadly fall into these categories: television, phone, internet, radio, access for people with disabilities, and emergency communications.
Lemberg Law’s primary interest in examining FCC data was in relation to robocalling without permission and junk faxes – two practices that the FCC has ruled are violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
As shown in the visualization below, the FCC separately tracked telemarketing calls and robocalls until 2016. It appears that the agency began to combine the two categories into a single “unwanted calls” category that year. Aside from a big boost from 2014 to 2015, the complaints about unwanted calls have remained steady at around 170,000 per year. Given that net neutrality is currently under threat, the number of complaints in the last month of 2017 may cause that year’s numbers to rise.
Other categories of complaints have peaks and valleys. For example, complaints about junk faxes have dropped from a peak of almost 5,000 in 2016. This could be due in part to an increasing number of consumers and businesses taking junk faxers to court. Net neutrality complaints rose dramatically in 2016, possibly in anticipation of or in reaction to a court ruling that broadband carriers were subject to Title II of the Communications Act. Complaints associated with number portability and cramming have decreased, likely as a result of an FCC focus on those issues.
Here is a similar visualization representing the percentage of each type of complaint.
The most frequent offending numbers are relatively unique. Only one number overlaps with a number on the Federal Trade Commission’s “dirty dozen” numbers that have racked up the most consumer complaints. The phone number that appears on both lists is 516-453-6886.
Consumers who have complaints about radio, television, telephone, satellite, and cable services can file an FCC complaint online: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov