On June 10, 2016, the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee recommended promulgation of a Final Rule pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, containing the following consumer protections:
- Calls pursuant to the exception would only be permitted to be made to the debtors themselves, not to family, friends or others, including employers;
- The rule would apply to texts as well as to calls to cell phones;
- Calls would be allowed only when related to delinquent or defaulted debt, and only related to the debt status, and no telemarketing messages would be permitted to be included;
- The number of allowed calls or texts made pursuant to the proposed rule is limited to three calls per month, per servicer or collector and each initiated call would count as one call;
- Callers would be required to honor a request for the calls to stop;
- Callers would be required to notify consumers of their right to request that calls stop;
- The rule proposes to apply limitations in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to the permissible time of calls covered by the rule (8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.);
- The rule would only permit calls to be made under the exception for debts currently owed to or guaranteed by the United States, so that calls to collect these debts after they have been sold to independent third parties would not be permitted without consent;
- The same rules for wrong number calls, such as to reassigned numbers, as was required by the FCC’s 2015 Omnibus Order would apply to calls made pursuant to this rule (this only permits only 1 wrong number call)
The Consumer Advisory Comment also recommended the FCC require that callers have documented rationale for believing that a particular phone number belongs to the debtor contacted and that to the extent possible, the FCC work with the FTC and CFPB to coordinate definitions for terms and protections across the debt collection landscape. A copy of the recommendation can be viewed here.
In the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Congress exempted certain types of calls to collect debt backed by the government. Congress left it to the FCC, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, to prescribe regulations implementing the exemption. A copy of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 can be viewed here.