As we previously reported, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on November 2, amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. The TCPA limits the usage of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial/prerecorded messages. The recent modification allowed an exception to TCPA restrictions for calls and text messages “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” This modification is scheduled to take effect within nine months of the bill’s enactment following guidance from the Federal Communications Commission.
Two days later, on November 4, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), along with ten co-sponsors, introduced Senate Bill 2235, the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls Act of 2015—or HANGUP Act for short. The legislation would repeal section 301(b) of the recent budget deal’s TCPA exception for government-backed debt. Given the current composition of the Senate with Republicans in the majority, the bill is unlikely to gain traction in the current legislative session.
However, the 2016 election presents a reasonable opportunity for Democrats to regain control of the upper chamber. Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats, including many in states won by President Obama in the 2012 election, compared to just ten for Democrats. Should Democrats retake the Senate, one can reasonably expect the same or similar legislation to be reintroduced in the next Congress. Holders of government-backed debt should continue to monitor this situation and stay tuned for relevant guidelines from the FCC in 2016 regarding implementation of the new exception.
Troutman Sanders LLP has unique industry-leading expertise with the TCPA, with experience gained trying TCPA cases to verdict and advising Fortune 50 companies regarding their compliance strategies. We will continue to monitor legislative developments and regulatory implementation of the TCPA in order to identify and advise on potential risks.