MVNO Total Call Mobile has been slammed with a $30 million fine by the Federal Communications Commission for what the FCC has labeled as “fraudulent practices”. In addition, the action will mean that Total Call Mobile will be further prohibited from any participation in the Lifeline program.
The fraud investigation by the FCC has been going on for the better part of 2016 and was jointly conducted by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau as well as the Southern District of New York’s division of the United States Attorney’s Office. The investigation surrounded concerns and reports that Total Call Mobile was fraudulently enrolling an estimated “tens of thousands” of people into their carrier programs an Lifeline without their consent.
The Lifeline program was instituted in 1985 and is designed to assist low income citizens get connected to wireless cell phone services. Carriers who assist people in getting this special discount are given $9.25 a month for every subscriber they assist. Total Call Mobile was signing up thousands of customers who did not exist by using fake subscriber data and false eligibility cards. Total Call Mobile did not publicly deny any of the investigation’s findings.
As the investigation began to roll on earlier in the year, the FCC was looking to push through reforms regarding the Lifeline program. With the resignation of FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, such reforms may have to wait until a new official FCC chairman comes in under President Trump. The tentative reform investigation found rampant abuse in the program as it now stands.
Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, Travis LeBlanc, said in a public comment that, “We have no toleration for fraud. This unprecedented $30 million settlement, along with a permanent ban from the Lifeline program, affirms our commitment to pursue the strongest sanctions for those who defraud or abuse the Universal Service program. We thank our partners as the Department of Justice for working with us to make sure that companies that commit fraud are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
PHOTO CREDIT: The Associated Press
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