Enforcement Fines: The Collection Process

The Enforcement Bureau has four guiding mandates: shield consumers, safeguard competition, secure communications networks, and police the integrity of Commission funds, programs and services. To better protect the public plus strengthen accountability, the Bureau has made it a priority to streamline its processes, reduce its backlogs and offer more transparency into its observance activities. Recently, some questions had been raised about the rate at which adjustment fines are collected, so we believed it would be helpful to offer a primer to the enforcement process.

Statutory Authority

While the Bureau generally strives to conclude enforcement cases efficiently—and has made significant progress in doing so over the last two years— the Bureau follows a mandated process for taking and finalizing enforcement actions in order to protect the integrity of the investigations and ensure fairness to the companies included. This process, while lengthy in character, is required by law and ensures because of process by providing notice of probable violations and an opportunity for businesses to respond.

In setting the amount of the proposed fine, the Communications Act needs the Commission to consider specific requirements: “nature, circumstances, extent, and the law of gravity of the violation and, with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, any good prior offenses, ability to pay, and so on other matters as justice may need. ” In addition , the Commission comes after forfeiture guidelines—established in 1997— that will set base penalties for certain violations and identify criteria that the Fee considers when determining the appropriate penalty in any given case. Under these guidelines, the Commission may modify a forfeiture upward for infractions that are egregious, intentional, or repetitive, or that cause substantial damage or generate substantial economic gain for the violator.

Notice: Issuing an NAL

A proposed fine (technically called the “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture”) is the first formal step toward a potential enforcement action. This informs the company of the alleged unlawful activity, establishes the maximum penalty that might be assessed for that violation, and provides the business with an opportunity to contest the allegations. At this stage of the process, the Commission rate has notified the company of its proposed good. The proposed fine is not due or due to the Commission.

Review: Due Procedure

Because of process and the fair enforcement of the law demand that companies come with an opportunity to make their case plus fully respond to the NAL. The Bureau takes its responsibility seriously to thoroughly review all responses, carry out any additional investigation necessary, and make any adjustments to the case because appropriate – including reducing or maybe cancelling a fine if warranted.

Complete: Negotiation, Collection, Compliance

In some cases, the Enforcement Agency reaches a mutually acceptable arrangement with the company, which may include customer redress and compliance requirements. In case a settlement is not achieved, however , the particular Commission, after considering the full lawful and factual record, may vote to assess a fine (formally known as a “Forfeiture Order”).

Even after the Forfeiture Purchase, a company may continue to challenge an enforcement action before the Commission. Once it has exhausted its right to problem an enforcement action before the Percentage, however , a company is required to pay the fine imposed in the Forfeiture Purchase. If the company does not do so inside the required time, the fine is known as a debt to the United States and it is referred to the U. S. Division of Justice for a collection activity.

Improving efficiency, Decreasing the backlog

Since 2013, the Commission has steadily improved its efficiency in bringing suggested fines to conclusion, usually through settlement or a Commission-level decision in order to issue a final fine. In fact , the particular Bureau has collected 86 % of the actual fines it has enforced over the last two years, a substantial increase over previous years. During each of the last three years, the Commission has gathered more than 80 percent of the bad debts in imposed fines. By comparison, in 2011, just 54. 9 percent of the money owed in issued fines was collected. In 2015 alone, the Bureau has collected nearly hundred buck million in fines to the U. S. Treasury.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Fines collected $29. 9 Mirielle $8. 9 M $29 M $39 M $98 M
% associated with total 54. 9% 39. 2% 88. 2% 80. 3% 88. 6%

In addition , the Bureau made great strides in providing timely conclusions to cases. For example , NALs issued in 2011 took an average of 19 months to be resolved via forfeiture order, whereas NALs issued within 2014 took an average of eight a few months to be resolved via forfeiture order— a near 60 percent enhancement in speed.

There are, of course , special situations that take more time because they require coordination with other government entities. Recently, the Commission has received questions about the status of a couple of adjustment actions involving proposed fines. For instance , certain proposed fines related to the particular Lifeline program have been referred to the particular Commission’s Inspector General (IG) with regard to review. The IG is also tasked with reviewing potential misuse of Universal Service Funds and works together with the Department of Justice on these matters to ensure similar situations are handled consistently.

Another example is really a proposed fine against a Chinese language company for selling illegal jammers. As an international case, the Payment must comply with international treaties governing legal process between the countries. The Commission is actively working with the Chinese and U. S. government authorities to resolve this matter as precipitously as possible.

American consumers rely on the Observance Bureau to protect them and our country’s networks. Companies rely on the particular Enforcement Bureau to enforce the rules of the road and maintain a consistent and fair system. Whether it’s protecting consumer data, stopping Wi-Fi blocking, enforcing robocall rules or preventing cramming and slamming, the Enforcement Agency will not hesitate to protect consumers’ passions and the networks we all rely on.

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