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FCC Proposes New Rule That Limits Harmful Impact of Robocall Debt Collection Loophole

Consumers Union Urges Commissioners to Adopt the Strongest Rule Possible to Protect Consumers

(WASHINGTON, D.C.: May 9, 2016) – As directed by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a proposed rule late on Friday to implement the new exception lawmakers created last year to the federal law that restricts robocalls. The proposed rule clarifies the scope of the exception in ways that will help limit the negative impact that could otherwise result from opening this loophole, according to Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

“Americans are already regularly harassed by robocalls that can ring day and night,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumers Union. “Congress never should have weakened current law by opening the door to more robocalls on cell phones. The FCC’s proposed rule includes some important limits that will help keep this new loophole from leading to more robocall harassment. We encourage the Commissioners to adopt the strongest protections possible.”

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act currently prohibits most non-emergency robocalls to cell phones but a provision of the budget bill would weaken the law by allowing debt collectors to make such calls when the debt is owed to, or even guaranteed by, the federal government. Under the provision passed by Congress, debt collectors could make robocalls to Americans with education, mortgage, tax, and other federally-backed debt. To make matters worse, the provision could allow robocalls not only to those who owe debt, but also their family, references, and even to someone who happens to get assigned a phone number that once belonged to someone who owed debt.

Under the proposed rule issued by the FCC last week, debt collectors would be limited to making just three robocalls or texts each month. The rule would prohibit debt collectors from contacting the debtor’s family members or references. They would be required to stop robocalls and robotexts if the consumer requests them to do so and would be required to notify consumers that they have the right to make such a request. Debt collectors would be allowed to make robocalls and texts only when a debt is delinquent.

For the past year, Consumers Union’s End Robocalls campaign (www.endrobocalls.org) has worked to bring relief to consumers fed up with robocalls. The campaign has mobilized hundreds of thousands of consumers across the country to demand that the nation’s top phone companies offer their customers free call-blocking tools to stop unwanted robocalls. So far, over 600,000 people have signed Consumers Union’s petition urging AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon to take action.


Contact: Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext. 7606

Consumers Union is the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.