Federal Trade Commission staff submitted a comment to the Federal Communications Commission on proposed amendments to the FCC regulations that limit robocalls to consumers. The proposed amendments implement a recent change in the law that permits robocalls to collect debt owed to or guaranteed by the federal government without a consumer’s prior express consent.
The FTC staff comment urges caution with any expansion of permissible robocalling. In the comment, FTC staff outlines the consumer protection concerns raised by these calls and recommends that the FCC create standards for collecting government debt that are consistent with several related laws enforced by the FTC, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which provides consumer protections such as when and how collectors can call consumers, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which addresses the appropriate use of prerecorded phone calls.
The comment was submitted by staff of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
The staff comment proposes that the FCC limit newly-permitted robocalls in four key ways, allowing such calls (1) only to those regarding debts in “default,” (2) only to persons who actually owe the debts, (3) only to collect government debt and no other type of debt, and (4) only for collection purposes.
The staff comment also recommends, based on FTC law enforcement experience, that the FCC require reasonable data security practices regarding information obtained during calls, and limit the use of the information to collection purposes. The comment further recommends calling-time restrictions consistent with the FDCPA. It supports the FCC’s proposal to provide consumers with a way to stop unwanted debt collection robocalls, and suggests that the FCC require callers to transmit caller ID information that includes a call number that connects to a live person representing the collector.
The Commission vote to issue the staff comment was 3-0. (FTC File No. P165403; the staff contact is Daniel Dwyer, Division of Financial Practices, 202-326-2957.)
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