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USA: FCC settles with CaptionCall for $34.6M for improper data retention

 On July 9, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a settlement with CaptionCall and its parent company Sorenson Communications, LLC to resolve an investigation regarding the unlawful retention of call data and the submission of inaccurate information to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund Administrator.

Background to the decision

The FCC stated that TRS uses technology and/or communications assistants to enable consumers in the US who have speech or hearing disabilities to utilize the telecommunications system to make and receive calls. IP Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) is a form of this service that allows individuals who are hard of hearing to utilize a device that displays captions during a call. The FCC stated that CaptionCall retained some call content from users of the TRS service for three years before the issue was discovered.

Findings of the FCC

The FCC stated that Section 225 of the Communications Act requires the FCC to adopt regulations to prohibit providers from keeping records of the content of relayed conversations beyond the duration of the call and from intentionally altering a relayed conversation. CaptionCall was required to submit noncompliance reports to the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC which included:

  • the improper retention of call content beyond the duration of the call; 
  • failure to send required account change notifications to some customers; 
  • description of actions taken that resulted in noncompliance reports; and
  • the improper receipt of payment from the TRS Fund. 

In response to the report, the FCC stated that the Enforcement Bureau initiated an investigation with CaptionCall's full cooperation.


According to the FCC, CaptionCall entered into a consent decree which requires the company to:

  • conduct a data inventory;
  • implement a data retention schedule; and
  • invest in measures such as privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) and educational resources for customers.

CaptionCall has also agreed to a comprehensive compliance program, enhanced compliance reporting, and a financial settlement of nearly $35 million that includes:

  • $4 million investment in privacy and data protection enhancements for TRS users;
  • $5 million civil penalty;
  • $12 million reimbursement to the TRS Fund; and
  • relinquishment of over $13.6 million in IP CTS reimbursement claims.

The FCC's consent decree states that CaptionCall must develop a compliance plan within 90 days from the effective date of the consent decree.

You can read the news release here and the consent decree here.