Regulator hits insurers with record fine recommendation

Regulator hits insurers with record fine recommendation | Insurance Business

Regulator hits insurers with record fine recommendation

Two health insurance telemarketers have been fined $225 million by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for making a billion robocalls to customers using fake phone numbers.

According to the FCC, telemarketers John Spiller and Jakob Mears made the calls through two businesses – Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom. Both men and their companies are also being sued by the state attorneys general of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas in Texas federal court, where both men live. Those lawsuits allege that the two violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The robocalls Spiller and Mears made offered plans from major insurers such as Aetna and UnitedHealth through an automated message, the FCC said. However, consumers who pressed a button for more information were instead transferred to a call center which sold plans unrelated to those insurance companies.

The FCC added that the Missouri attorney general sued Health Advisors of America – one of Rising Eagle’s major clients – for telemarketing violations in 2019.

Over the course of more than four months in 2019, Spiller and Mears faked the number their calls displayed in caller ID, with the intent to dupe customers, the FCC said. The two also purposefully called people who are on the “Do Not Call” list, and called people’s mobile phones without requesting prior permission.

Spiller and Mears’ scheme did not just affect consumers, but insurers as well. The faked calls led to angry customers, who filed lawsuits against innocent insurance companies that were not actually involved with the robocalls. The FCC did not identify which insurers were affected by this, but confirmed that one had received so many calls in relation to the fraudulent robocalls that the company’s phone network “became unusable.”

The Associated Press reported that the fine is not a final decision – both Spiller and Mears will be given an opportunity to respond to the accusations.