Like most Americans, my family continues to be deluged with robo calls despite being on the “no call list” for years. The most reason annoying repeat offender has been an “Affordable Healthcare” number that calls repeatedly each day. I have previously written that I fail to see how the federal government cannot stop such companies. The fact is that they can and a recent report explains why they are not. According to the Wall Street Journal, it turns out that under Telephone Consumer Protection Act the Federal Communications Commission has imposed $208.4 million in fines. How much has the government collected? $6,790. You read that right. $6,790. That is just 0.003 percent of the fines.
Under classic deterrence theory, a rational actor in deciding whether to commit a crime will consider the rate of detection and the size of the penalty. As detection falls, penalties can be increased to preserve an ideal level of deterrence. That is shown by the fact that there has a 46 percent increase in robocalls in 2018 alone.
In this case, the penalty seems nonexistent so the level of detection may matter little. Under the law, all unpaid penalties are handed over to the Justice Department, which has the power to collect the fines. Clearly, this is not working and suggests that direct criminal penalties against individuals may be needed.
There were between 26.3 billion and 48 billion unwanted robocalls made to US mobile phones in 2018 and it is getting worse. It seems like our government is increasingly incapable of performing the simplest of tasks. These numbers have operators who seek contracts and purchases that can be tracked. Yet, millions of Americans have been sold a bill of goods not by marketers but their own government which created a “no call list” as a pretense of enforcement.