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FCC Grapples With Robocalls on Student Debt

Sharon Edmondson, Washington Legislative Team Member | March 04, 2016

The FCC cracked down on annoying robocalls last summer, but The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed into law by President Barack Obama in November, included a provision that allows companies to make autodialed calls to collect government-backed debt, such as student loans, without first obtaining permission from the consumer.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler must now accommodate the carve-out, though the proposal he's circulating to fellow commissioners would add consumer protections like limiting the number and duration of government debt robocalls. He's aiming to get the rule approved by the Aug. 2 deadline set by the law.

Consumer groups are concerned the exception could undermine the crackdown and allow a flood of robocalls on behalf of the government, while attorneys representing industries in private debt collection see an opportunity for a loophole of their own.

Wheeler's plan for implementing the exception includes limiting robocalls to collection of delinquent debts or helping consumers avoid default. It would cap the number of monthly debt-related calls per person and give consumers the right to stop unwanted debt calls.

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