The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently finalized rules that would allow agents of the federal government to avoid consumer debt collections laws when collecting debts owed to the government.
The FCC is the agency appointed by Congress to administer the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which regulates how consumers may be contacted via phone call, text message, fax, or email.
The rules will allow debt collectors to use autodialers, which are strictly regulated by the TCPA, when the calls are made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States. The rules will not affect debt collectors pursuing other types of debt.
These types of collection calls will only be allowed when either the consumer is delinquent on a federal debt, like a student loan, or when the delinquency is imminent; i.e., when there is a time-sensitive event like the end of a grace period or forbearance.
Additionally, these rules will also only apply when the federal government currently owns the debt. When the debt has been sold to a third-party collector, all of the normal rules under the TCPA will apply.
The rules also specify that debt collectors may still only use autodialers or robocalls to contact the people who are legally responsible for the federal debt, like the debtor and any co-signors. The debt collector cannot contact anyone else, like a reference or witness to the debt, with automated collection calls. Finally, the law allows for only three non-consensual automated calls per month, and the content of these calls must be solely about the debt—no advertising or marketing for other services is allowed.
The new rules may result in additional communications for people who owe money to the federal government. Specifically, people whose student loans or mortgages are backed by the government may start receiving additional automated phone calls. However, consumers should keep in mind that they still have the right to request that automated calls and recorded messages stop, regardless of the new rules. In the event that the consumer opts out of these messages, the regular TCPA debt collection rules will apply.
If you are receiving calls from creditors who refuse to leave you alone, then you may have grounds for a lawsuit and be awarded monetary damages. At the law firm of Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC, our attorneys have extensive knowledge of the TCPA and FDCPA requirements as well as decades of experience representing clients in all types of consumer defense cases.