The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to fine Total Call Mobile $51.1 million after the carrier fraudulently collected payments from a federal program called Lifeline. Lifeline provides subsidized phone service for low-income consumers and was created by the Reagan administration in 1985 and expanded by Bush in 2005.
As Consumerist found out, the FCC is accusing Total Call Mobile of using “widespread enrollment fraud” to collect nearly $10 million in payments from the Lifeline program. They received such money after they signed up tens of thousands of duplicate or ineligible consumers “despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that the FCC has been forced to fine wireless carriers for widespread fraud within the Lifeline program.
In 2013, the FCC fined five wireless carriers for abusing the Lifeline program. According to the FCC, TracFone Wireless, Icon Telecom, Assist Wireless, Easy Wireless and UTPhone all abused the system by collecting duplicate subsidies for “thousands” of accounts.
In 2015, the FCC fined AT&T for collecting undeserved federal subsidies from the Lifeline program. AT&T was intentionally failing to audit its Lifeline subscriber roles, meaning that they continued to collect subsidies for customers that no longer existed or were no longer eligible.
And let’s not forget that AT&T has also been fined for:
- Defrauding the IP Relay network used by the deaf,
- Fined for profiting off of cramming,
- Sued by the FTC for throttling unlimited data users.