NYT reports that AT&T may be hit with a whopper:

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday proposed fining AT&T Corp. (T.N) $780,000 for violating telemarketing rules by calling customers who had requested not to be contacted by the No. 1 U.S. long-distance carrier.

The FCC started an investigation of AT&T’s telemarketing practices after a regular review of consumer complaint data revealed over 300 complaints in the past several months alleging Do-Not-Call violations by AT&T.

The investigation was not triggered by the nationwide “Do Not Call” initiative that went into effect in October. Instead, it focused on claims by customers who believed they were on an AT&T-specific “Not Call” list, the company said.

The FCC said it found that AT&T made telephone solicitation calls to 29 consumers on 78 separate occasions even after the consumers had requested no more calls.

The agency proposed a forfeiture of $10,000 for each of the 78 apparent violations. It said this was the FCC’s first major “Do Not Call” enforcement action.

The 8th Amendment says, in full,

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

As much as I hate telemarketers, one wonders whether $10,000 isn’t rather excessive punishment for one such phone call. Especially since the victims wouldn’t be the recipient of the money.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. [Putting on my cynical hat]
    But the government needs the money “for the children.”
    [Cynical hat taken off]

  2. Jay Solo says:

    Way excessive!

  3. joy says:

    Betcha that others will think twice before calling someone on the Do Not Call list.

  4. AvatarADV says:

    Well, given that the penalty for copying a song illegally is thousands of dollars – hundreds of times more than the cost of a copy of that song – I’d say we’re not in la-la land or anything. And it doesn’t cost three hundred bucks every time a cop pulls somebody over for going twenty miles an hour over the limit.

    It’s a fine, not a lawsuit to recover costs. It’s -supposed- to be high enough to remove the temptation to weigh economic benefits versus the risk of getting caught…

  5. James Joyner says:

    Yes, it’s a fine. But we don’t fine people anything close to that for DUIs or other much more serious conduct. Going 20 mph over the limit shouldn’t net a $300 fine either (I’ve never lived in a state that had amounts that high), but at least the consequences of doing that are much more significant than a twenty-second interruption imposed by a phone call.

    And, sure, excessive fines would do the trick. But they’re supposed to be a violation of our basic rights.

  6. Paul says:

    Help me out Mr. Professor dude…

    Can a company hide behind the 8th?

    I thought that would know be for a citizen.

  7. Paul says:

    I thought that would ONLY be for a citizen.

    (i have no idea what how my fingers did that)

  8. James Joyner says:

    A corporation essentially is a citizen under the law.

  9. Rick DeMent says:

    A corporation essentially is a citizen under the law.

    And what a piss poor piece of jurisprudence that was, talk about creating law out of whole cloth. But the point is to relate the crime a corporation commits to a individual crime is not really applicable. The penalty must be meaningful other wise it’s not a fine or a penalty it’s a tax and companies with the cash will flout the law and company who don’t will simply have the barrier to entrance in the market raised.

  10. Paul says:

    A corporation essentially is a citizen under the law.

    Huh… Glad that was not my final jeopardy question.