The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing possible rules to allow companies using modern dialing technologies to call consumers on their cell phones concerning government-related debts including student loans and mortgages.

It expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - possibly still in February - concerning a Telephone Consumer Protection Act amendment that was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act passed in December. The topic came up Friday during the FCC's Consumer Advisory Board meeting.

Kristi Thornton, associate division chief in the Consumer Policy Division at the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, on Friday told consumer advisory committee that the NPRM will come soon because the budget deal requires the FCC to issue a regulation by Aug. 2 that will clarify the rules for such calls.

Questions that Thornton expects to be addressed in the NPRM include: 

  • Who may use modern dialing technology to call a consumer about government-related debts?
  • What does it mean to make a call solely to collect a debt?
  • Should there be a limit on how many times a company can contact a consumer?
  • Does the consumer need to be in default or should other servicing activities be included in the exemption?

The collection industry supports allowing businesses to make non-solicitation, informational calls to consumers with modern dialing technology. While new rules could favor the industry, most FCC commissioners have made it clear they don't like autodialers.

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