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The Law Offices of
Edward A. Maldonado, PA
2850 S. Douglas Road
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Tel: (305) 477-7580
Fax: (305) 477-7504
Toll-Free: 1+ (877) 245-6326
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Edward A. Maldonado, Esq.
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Defense of Federal Communications Commission Violations
Individuals and businesses can be investigated and fined by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Enforcement Bureau for violations of the Communication Act of 1934, as amended ("the Act”). The process is called an FCC Enforcement Action. Sometimes these actions concern well known and obvious prohibitions by the FCC committed by well-defined regulated persons or businesses. (For example, a company transmitting a Radio or VSAT transmission without an FCC license, or, under an expired FCC license.) Other times the underpinnings of the alleged violations may not be so clear, and are based upon FCC interpretations of paperwork requirements, public notice records, technical specification on equipment, FCC rules and orders, and can have criminal implications. This can involve questions of not only law, but surrounding facts.
The process usually begins with a notice from the FCC under a Letter of Inquiry
”. The letter carries the legal effect of an administrative subpoena and independent fines can result from failure to timely respond. If the FCC Enforcement Bureau is satisfied from its LOI review that sufficient evidence exists that the party has violated the Act, a Notice of Apparent Liability
”) will be issued the party. The NAL will specify the violation, a specific proposed fine amount and rationale as to why, and allow the party to answer or deny the NAL in writing within a thirty-day (30 day) period. Failure to respond will result in an order being issued by the FCC seeking to collect the fine amount.
Our firm’s advocacy begins upon any notice of an FCC Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) or Notice of Apparent Liability
”). If engaged for the LOI process, our approach with clients is to first ascertain all facts, preserve documents and records, and coordinate their collection and submission to the FCC in the most expeditious manner possible. Should extensions of time be necessary because of the nature of the claim, the firm requests such time from FCC Bureau staff to enable the FCC and the client to have a full picture of the facts. Should records not be readily available, ongoing disclosures of documents and information is requested. Evidence is likewise reviewed to identify any potential attorney-client privileged work product with prior counsel.
Where and when a Notice of Apparent Liability
”) has been issued a client, our approach is to provide immediate consultation on how to best resolve the NAL with the client’s goals and interest in mind. There are a number of options, which include but are not limited to:
- Response to the NAL with a formal answer and legal brief as to its factual and legal basis.
- Request for consent decree negotiations.
- Request for treatment as a small business enterprise for a downward departure on the fine or forfeiture.
- Request for special treatment due to an economic hardship.
Should an Order of Monetary or Equipment Forfeiture be issued, the individual or business, the order may be appealed to the federal courts in Washington DC for review of the agency’s action and the violation. Our firm maintains relations with co-counsel attorneys in Washington DC for such outcomes. Should a resolution be successfully negotiated or determined by the FCC and legal argument, the firm immediately begins a compliance review and plans to prevent further violations.
FCC Defense work of this firm includes:
- FCC Enforcement Bureau investigations and Notice of Apparent Liability (NALs) against common carriers, broadcasters, equipment manufacturers, and individuals.
- CPNI violations for annual reporting compliance and data breaches.
- E-911 violations for wireless services and interconnected VoIP.
- Violations resulting from the failure of carriers and VoIP providers to file annual FCC 499 reports or pay USF and regulatory contributions for successive years.
- Violations resulting from the failure of service bureaus, carriers and VoIP provider to document 499 Filer IDs and USF exemption certificates for reporting affecting the contribution base reported on the FCC 499 Reports.
- Technical rule violations on equipment and broadcast station equipment.
- Violations resulting from post-site inspection of broadcasters as to public record availability.
- Unauthorized broadcasts or use of frequency by amateur radio operators, VAST networks, mobile operators, near-airport antennas, earth stations, and pirate radio stations.
- Violations resulting from non-responsiveness to informal FCC complaints
- CAN-SPAM Act and junk fax violations
- Failure to obtain FCC 214 Authority prior to offering telecommunication services
- Eligible telecommunication carrier violations and ancillary criminal actions.
Formal and Informal Complaints before the Federal Communications Commission
Communication carriers, licensees, broadcasters and businesses can also have both formal and informal complaints filed against them by consumers and affected persons with the FCC. Failure to respond to such complaints can result in Enforcement Bureau NAL(s) or Forfeiture Orders. Carriers, licensees, and broadcasters normally have only a specific time period to resolve the matter through informal mediation or resolve the basis of the claim. As many states (such as the state of Florida) are now de-regulating the consumer complaint process, more informal and formal complaints by consumers are anticipated after July 1, 2011.
FCC work of firm for informal and formal complaints includes:
- Representation before the FCC in the formal complaint mediation process (complainant and respondent)
- Representation before the FCC in the formal complaint administrative litigation process (complainant and respondent)
- Resolution of pending violations of non-responsiveness to informal complaints through direct negotiations with the FCC.
FCC Informal Complaints and the special case of Florida Consumers
Effective July 1, 2011, the Florida Public Service Commission (“PSC”) will no longer be regulating or handling mediating consumer complaints of Florida consumers for problems with long distance providers and retail telephony providers. Traditionally, the Florida PSC mediated such complaints with registered carriers allowing the carrier to resolve issues with the PSC instead of the FCC. Now, Florida consumers with billing, charge, or service issues related to long distance and retail (individual or business customers) phone service will need to file complaints with either the Florida Attorney General, or the FCC under the FCC’s informal or formal complaint process.
It is anticipated that the numbers of informal complaints with the FCC from Florida consumers will surge by the fall of 2011. Carriers, Interconnected VoIP and prepaid calling card providers that do not properly disclose their terms of service or have service issues can expect to see an increase of such complaints in this period.
In anticipation of this de-regulation, the firm has begun work with its clients to better re-enforce best practices in:
- Advertising statements
- Disclosures and disclaimers
- Subscription and contract terms
- Published website information on the internet, and
- Customer service scripts.
Unresponsiveness to FCC informal complaints by carriers, prepaid calling cards and VoIP providers serving Florida consumers can lead into either NALs or fines. Contact our firm for more information or on how we can help your services and operations with Florida consumers.
Contact our firm today at (305) 477- 7580, Toll-Free at 1-877-245-6326, or via e-mail for general questions as to our specific services or representation on a particular matter.
Individuals and businesses facing the threat of imminent lawsuits, regulatory Enforcement Actions or criminal charges are urged to contact The Law Offices of Edward A. Maldonado PA today to schedule a complementary consultation from our South Florida law firm. Time is always of the essence in such cases.
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