The Federal Communications Commission issued final rules yesterday regarding non-telemarketing robocalls made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the United States. The final rules implement section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which exempted from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s prior consent requirements autodialed and prerecorded calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.”
The final rules impose significant limitations on the use of the exemption – limiting such calls to three within a 30-day period, among other restrictions – and leave open the question of whether the exemption applies to loans owed to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The rules also extend the FCC’s existing rules regarding calls made to reassigned wireless numbers, such that a caller is liable, after the first call, for calls made to a number that no longer belongs to the distressed borrower.
“We’re pleased the FCC recognized that borrowers are best served if they can communicate with their lender prior to delinquency to prevent missed payments, receive offers for loan modifications and avoid default,” said ABA SVP Virginia O’Neill. “However, we’re disappointed that the Commission has imposed limitations on the exemption, which would prevent lenders from helping borrowers achieve those goals. These limitations are not authorized by the text of the statute and are inconsistent with the rules and standards of other federal agencies.”
ABA also criticized the Commission’s failure to clarify the status of calls made on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans. “These borrowers should receive the same level of beneficial communications from their lenders as borrowers of other loans that are owed to or guaranteed by the federal government,” the association said. “We’re disappointed that the Commission failed to provide clarity on this important question.”
ABA and the Consumer Bankers Association filed a joint comment letter on the proposed rules, urging the FCC to apply the exemption as expansively as Congress intended, including to mortgage loans owed to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They also urged the Commission to harmonize its rule with well-established mortgage servicing practices and regulatory requirements. For more information, contact ABA’s Jonathan Thessin.