The United States Senate today approved a two-year budget deal that amends the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Specifically, the TCPA amendment will authorize the use of automated telephone dialing systems (“ATDS”) to call cellular telephones (without consumer consent) for the purpose of collecting debts owed to the United States government.
How will the TCPA be Amended?
Bipartisan Budget Agreement Amends TCPA ATDS Rules
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement expressly amends the TCPA’s prohibition on telephone calls made to cellular telephones using an ATDS where “such call[s] [are] made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” The language appears to cover Federal Direct student loans, Perkins loans, Federal Housing Administration loans and Veterans Administration loans. Accordingly, consumers who have defaulted on such loans may lawfully receive debt collection calls using an ATDS without the requirement that debt collectors obtain their consent prior to calling.
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement also requires the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to issue regulations to implement these changes within nine (9) months of the date of enactment of the bill.
Roughly three months ago, we blogged about the FCC Order which, among other things, expanded the definition of ATDS in an effort to minimize calls using such technology. However, President Barack Obama issued a statement this morning saying that he will sign the Bipartisan Budget Agreement “as soon as it reaches my desk.” President Obama has until November 3 to sign the agreement which, when signed, will expand the use of ATDS in the debt collection arena, at least with respect to debts owed to the United States.