On May 6, the Federal Communications Commission released a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement a provision of President Obama’s Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which creates an exception from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) consent requirement for robocalls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.”

The TCPA generally requires a caller to obtain the prior express consent of the called party when making a non-emergency telemarketing call using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) or artificial or prerecorded voice.  However, the Bipartisan Budget Act created an important exemption for calls made to cellular and residential telephone numbers pursuant to the collection of debts owed to or guaranteed by the United States.  The Act requires the FCC, in consultation with the Department of Treasury, to prescribe regulations implementing these amendments to the TCPA.

The FCC now seeks comment on a number of implementation questions, including:

  • How to interpret the phrase “solely to collect a debt,” including whether to interpret the phrase to apply to only those calls made to obtain payment after the borrower is delinquent on a payment;
  • Whether debt servicing calls should be included in covered calls;
  • How to interpret the phrase “a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States;”
  • Who can be called (g., whether calls can only be made to the person obligated to pay the debt); and
  • What types of number and duration restrictions should be adopted for the covered calls.

Comments on the FCC’s notice are due by June 6.  Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor developments related to the FCC’s proposed TCPA-related rulemaking.