Monday, November 23, 2015
Report: FCC Proposes Millions In Fines, Collects $0
Among the outstanding cash: about $100 million in penalties proposed in 2013 against nearly a dozen companies accused of defrauding the FCC's Lifeline low-income phone subsidy program, as well $35 million against a Chinese company for allegedly selling illegal wireless jamming equipment in June 2014, according to a Politico review of agency records.
While the FCC says it's scored important consumer protection wins even without the collection of some penalties, its frequent press releases about enforcement actions — with collection of fines lagging far behind — have irked key lawmakers who oversee the agency. The issue is gathering more attention this year, as FCC officials have unveiled new high-profile actions like a $100 million proposed fine against AT&T in June for slowing down the wireless connections of some unlimited data plan holders.
The FCC enforcement process has never been quick. After the FCC proposes a fine, companies have around 30 days to either pay or challenge it. The fine isn't officially due until the FCC completes its investigation — a process that can take years. Even after that review is complete, the FCC has to rely on the Justice Department to collect the money if a company doesn't agree to pay.
The FCC would not comment on the outstanding Lifeline cases, saying it can't talk about ongoing proceedings. But a spokesperson said the practice of issuing proposed fines — technically called notices of apparent liability, or NALs — is a major tool to protect consumers, even if companies don’t ultimately pay a full penalty.
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Posted 3:58:00 AM