By Kelly Jones
As part of the 2015 budget compromise, the Bipartisan Federal Budget Act of 2015 (“Act”) signed into law by President Obama on November 2, 2015 amends the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (“TCPA”) prohibitions on autodialed or artificial/prerecorded voice calls (and texts) made to cell phones without the prior express consent of the called party by exempting calls or texts that are “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” Thus the exception shields even third-party collectors as long as they are attempting to collect on a government-backed debt. This exception applies even when the caller does not have the prior consent of the called party, and thus there is no way for the consumer to stop the unwanted calls by revoking consent. It appears that even calls made to the wrong party/number are nonetheless included within this exception.
This amendment will likely affect student loan borrowers the most as this is the largest segment of government-backed debt collection—but the exception also presumably encompasses Small Business Administration loans, government-guaranteed mortgage loans, and federal tax liabilities. However, the Act allows for the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the agency delegated TCPA rulemaking and implementation, to implement rules that “restrict or limit the number and duration” of calls made to cell phones to collect government-backed debts, but it remains to be seen if, and to what extent, the FCC will do so.
Kelly D. Jones is a solo attorney located in inner SE Portland and represents consumers in unlawful debt collection litigation and bankruptcy cases.