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Possibility: Collection Calls Coming to Your Cellphone

February 04, 2016

While many of the TCPA questions revolve around the use of auto dialing technology by companies, the student loan collection industry has been uniquely affected.

The issue is that student loan debt collectors are unable to use auto dialers to robocall the cellphones of debtors. According to an article from Tim Bauer over at insideARM, there’s a chance that student loans debt collectors may be allowed to continue this practice soon—at least if the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), the Education Finance Council (EFC), and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance (SLSA) get their way.

The three organizations filed an ex parte letter with the FCC (News - Alert) recently offering background details on federal student loans and why including pre-default servicing in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) under development by the Bureau of Consumer and Governmental Affairs is important. The FCC should release the NPRM sometime in February, as outlined by the timeline in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which amended the TCPA to allow auto dialer technology in the collection of federal held and guaranteed debt.

The NCHER, EFC, and SLSA want to add the ability to make such calls to debtors’ cellphones as a tool to help loan borrowers “avoid delinquency and default, rehabilitate defaulted loans, and access discharge programs for which they are eligible.” The argument is that distressed borrowers don’t typically seek out assistance on their own. As such, the three organizations say a sustained effort over a period time provides the best chance for contacting a borrower and explain repayment options.

In other words, the NCHER, EFC, and SLSA are urging the FCC, as it develops its NPRM, to adopt rules that “permit reasonable and responsible calls to wireless telephones” as a way of assisting borrowers.

It all seems quite reasonable, but the public at large and the FCC itself seem to feel that opening this door could lead to a massive influx of robocalls to borrowers across the country. Industry experts seem to think this will prevent the FCC from changing the rule in favor of the NCHER, EFC, and SLSA and instead will enact a one-call limit to any individual’s cellphone. Given the FCC’s rulemaking last year, it does seem likely. We’ll just have to wait and see.