As we previously reported, section 301(b) of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 permits an exception to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 for calls and text messages “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The TCPA generally prohibits calls made and text messages sent utilizing artificial or prerecorded voices to any telephone line, without the prior express consent of the called party, or calls using automatic telephone dialing systems (“ATDS”) to wireless telephone numbers.
The 2015 bill amended the TCPA to allow the use of an ATDS and prerecorded messages for calls and text messages “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The Federal Communications Commission was tasked with implementing the revised statute by August 2, 2016, and also was given the ability “to restrict or limit the number and duration of calls” made to wireless telephone numbers utilizing the new exception.
According to published reports, a draft rule was circulated by the FCC on February 17, seeking to balance the consumer protection interest with the new congressional directive excepting government-backed loans from TCPA restrictions. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed implementation includes capping the number of monthly calls, limiting the scope of such calls solely to collecting delinquent debts and avoiding default, and allowing consumers to stop such calls if so desired. Given the lack of specifics at this early stage of implementation, holders of government-backed debt should keep an eye out for relevant guidelines from the FCC later this year.
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.