The Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee recently reviewed its proposed rule on government debt collection calls and offered ideas about how to inform current rulemaking to implement Telephone Consumer Protection Act amendments.
The FCC released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last month, seeking to implement an amendment exempting autodialed calls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the U.S. from the TCPA's prior express consent requirement. The amendment was passed by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.
Callers who contact consumers via cell phone regarding a federal government debt - such as student loans, mortgages and taxes - can use modern dialing technologies under the amendment without first obtaining prior express consent.
According to a transcript from the committee’s meeting,the recommendations related to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focus on the use of automated dialing technology to reach consumers and ensure debt collectors have a "documented rationale for debt collection.” The committee discussed several features of the rulemaking notice, noting that from the consumer’s view, the proposals are strong. Some key aspects of the discussion included:
- Ensure covered calls are made to the right party for the right debt, debt collectors should have a “documented rationale” before making an exempted call.
- The FCC should work with other agencies to ensure definitions in the final rule are similar so consumers will not have to navigate different requirements.
- The FCC should make explicit that the exemption does not apply to calls to employers.
- Because consumers could receive several calls per month beyond the proposed three-call limit if they have multiple federal loans in collections, the final rule should perhaps establish a more protective call frequency limit.