Consumer groups urge new FCC Chairman to keep limits on debt collection robocalls
With the advent of the new administration, companies that collect student loan debt wasted no time in their attempt to roll back regulation protecting consumers. In 2016 the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) limited the number of calls these organizations can make to mobile phones to three a month and barred them from contacting the borrower’s friends, family, and colleagues. Eighteen consumer advocacy organizations filed a petition with the FCC that would oppose any revision to the current rules in place, arguing they protect consumers from undue harassment.
The debt collecting organizations, however, argue that the FCC has overstepped its authority around calls to borrower’s friends and family. Also, they believe the limit to three calls per month isn’t reasonable. Finally, they seem to side with the new Chairman, Ajit Pai, around the use and definition of auto dialers, believing the definitions are too broad. The argument is that the use of auto dialers significantly increases their ability to resolve delinquencies.
The eighteen organizations that filed the petition with the FCC are led by the National Consumer Law Center. They argue the loosening of the rules will result in exponential growth in robocalls, which is already a huge problem for consumers and the FCC. There is a belief that debt collection agencies should be able to contact borrowers a reasonable amount of times but that one phone call and one voicemail accomplishes that aim.
It is interesting to note that there are lawsuits outstanding for many of the major student loan debt collection companies. Navient, a company that collects student loan payments on behalf of the federal government, is in the middle of several lawsuits around debt robocalls. One Georgia man is claiming he received 3,500 calls from Navient over two years.
Whatever happens over the next few years around the FCC and robocalls, it will definitely be interesting to observe how the FCC finds a balance between consumer protection and business interests.