Federal Communications Commission announced new rules on Thursday that imposes limitations on private collection agencies and servicers seeking to collect on behalf of federal debts. While the TCPA places limitations around many autodialed calls, it provides an exception to liability for federal debt collection calls, such for as some mortgages and student loans. Under the new rules, however, debt collectors can now only place three calls or texts per month to people with loans “owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The new limitation applies regardless of how many separate accounts a single borrower has with the caller and only consumers at risk of delinquency can be called. The caller is required to inform the borrower that he or she has the right to stop calls at any point. In addition, the FCC clarified that a borrower’s do-not-call instruction remains in place even if an account is transferred to a new servicer. There are also new restrictions around contacting borrowers’ family or friends.
The FCC’s new requirements are likely to impact both large and small institution that act as servicers on federal debts. “The commission is establishing strong, pro-consumer limits on robocalls to collect federal debt,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “These protections are particularly important following a January Supreme Court ruling that federal government entities conducting official business are not subject to robocall limits unless Congress says otherwise. Our decision implements Congress’ directive and responds to thousands of comments from consumers expressing frustration with robocalls and urging clear, strong limits on debt-collection calls.”