Joint Trades Letter to FCC re TCPA Govt Debt Calls

June 6, 2016

 

Via ECFS

 

Ms. Marlene H. Dortch Secretary

Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street, NW

Washington, DC  20554

 

Re: Request for Comment on Proposed Rule, CG Docket No. 02-278 Dear Ms. Dortch:

The American Bankers Association1 and the Consumer Bankers Association2 (the Associations) appreciate the opportunity to submit this comment in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) request for comment3 on proposed revisions to its rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act4 (TCPA) to implement a provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (2015 Budget Act or Act). That provision exempts from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement autodialed and prerecorded calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” (Exemption).5

 

Enacted in 1991, the TCPA is primarily a privacy statute, written to protect consumers from intrusive and unwanted telemarketing calls, but it also has other purposes. One such purpose was cost reduction in a time when cell phones were considered a luxury item. The restrictions on automated calls to wireless numbers expressly were written, in part, to control the shifting of telemarketers’ advertising costs to consumers by the use of random and sequential generators to run mass calling campaigns.6   This restriction had merit in 1991 when wireless service was expensive, relatively rare, and almost never used by consumers as their primary means of telephone communication.  The Commission’s recent interpretations of the TCPA, however, fail to reflect technological change and consumer communication preferences, preventing consumers from receiving important communications from businesses and government entities on their mobile phones, communications that provide important information that consumers want and need to receive.

 

This untenable situation prompted the Administration, beginning in 2013, to include in its budget proposals a request to exempt from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement calls to mobile phones to collect on debts owed to or guaranteed by the United States.  In 2015, Congress enacted a statutory provision codifying the exemption.

 

Clearly, both the Administration and the Congress recognize that borrowers trying to manage their finances responsibly are best served if they communicate with their lender. Communications between a borrower and lender may help the borrower prevent missed payments, minimize negative impacts to a borrower’s credit report, take advantage of loan modification or other workout programs, and avoid default.  Successful loan workouts and other foreclosure alternatives also reduce credit risk and financial losses to the United States, helping taxpayers recoup the $139.3 billion of delinquent debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.7   Using efficient dialing technology to communicate with borrowers enables more contacts and important conversations to occur with fewer personnel, reducing the cost of servicing and collections.  This, in turn, promotes the affordability and availability of consumer credit...(Continue Reading)