On May 6, 2016, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking implementing amendments to the TCPA adopted by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (aka The Budget Act).
The Budget Act exempts calls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States from certain TCPA provisions, including the restrictions on calls to cell phones; requires the FCC to adopt regulations to implement the TCPA amendments; and authorized the FCC to adopt regulations to restrict or limit the number and duration of permissible government-back debt collection calls.
The FCC proposes to limit the exemption to calls made to obtain payment after the borrower is delinquent or “debt servicing” calls made by or on behalf of the creditor. The FCC seeks comment on what should be considered a debt servicing call and how to ensure the exemption does not subject consumers to unwanted marketing calls.
The FCC proposes to limit the exemption to calls made to debtors; exemptions would not apply to calls made to family, friends, etc. Calls made to wrong or reassigned numbers would not be exempt, with the exception of the FCCs one call safe harbor for calls accidentally made to reassigned numbers.
The FCC also seeks comments on whether the exemption should be limited to calls made to numbers provided by the debtor. The FCC seeks comments on whether and how the FCC should encourage live calls rather than prerecorded messages, how the duration of calls/texts should be limited and whether the rules should differ for live versus prerecorded calls, and whether the volume or frequency of calls should be impacted by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and/or any rules adopted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The FCC proposes that debtors should have the right to opt-out of future calls and that callers should be required to disclose this right to debtors during calls.
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