In 2015, Congress amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to create an exemption to the statute’s autodialer restrictions for calls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States. On March 31, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California gave this amendment retroactive effect, to the benefit of debt collectors.
In Silver v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the plaintiff brought claims under the TCPA against the defendant for alleged calls placed in January of 2014 to collect on federally funded student loan debt. The plaintiff brought his class action complaint the following month, in February 2014. In response, the defendant filed an early motion for summary judgment.
The defendant argued that the TCPA’s amendment applied retroactively to calls that occurred before the date of the amendment. The plaintiff countered, arguing that the amendment requires the Federal Communications Commission to issue implementing regulations, and that the amendment does not apply until those regulations take effect. The court sided with the defendant. According to the court, the TCPA’s amendment is silent on retroactivity. Given this silence, the Court applied the Supreme Court’s test in Landgraf and determined that there was no bar to retroactive application.
Ultimately, the Court concluded that retroactive “application of the TCPA amendment would further Congress’s intent to allow telephone calls to be placed in the furtherance of collecting debts owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” As a result, it determined that the amendment applied to calls placed prior to the amendment and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.