The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a monetary forfeiture of more than $51 million against a wireless Lifeline service provider who allegedly established multiple Lifeline wireless phone service subscriptions for individual consumers, in violation of the program’s rules.
The Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NALs) in April 2016 against Total Call Mobile, alleging that the company received an estimated $9.7 million in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund since 2014 for duplicate or ineligible consumers. According to the Commission, the company continued its fraudulent practices despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees and compliance specialists that the company’s sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud.
According to the Commission, the company’s fraudulent practices were so widespread that, in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, nearly 100 percent of the subscribers it submitted for enrollment in the Lifeline program involved overriding the third-party verification systems designed to identify duplicate enrollments.
Established in 1985, the Lifeline program provides discounted wireless service subscriptions to low-income consumers. However, evidence of widespread abuse led the Commission to overhaul the program in 2012, and to implement further reforms in March 2016. The Commission has also undertaken aggressive enforcement investigations of duplicate service and fraud, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed fines.