Legislation with potential impact of rolling back gains by the credit and collection industry has returned to the 115th Congress for consideration this session.
The Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act was reintroduced by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Michael Lee (R-Utah) on Wednesday.
The HANGUP Act would repeal a provision in 2015’s bipartisan budget agreement – signed by former President Barack Obama in November 2016 – that would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act so that companies could use modern dialing technologies to contact consumers via cell phone about government-backed debts like student loans, mortgages and taxes.
“The bill also rescinds the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadnet et. al Declaratory Ruling, which formally exempts government contractors from the TCPA,” according to a news release from Markey’s office.
Markey also introduced the legislation in 2016 and 25 state attorneys general (19 Democrats and 6 Republicans) supported the measure last year, ACA previously reported. They wrote a letter to U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) – the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – expressing their support of HANGUP Act.
ACA applauded the TCPA amendment that passed as part of the budget agreement because it demonstrates an understanding that government limiting dialing technology for legitimate debt collection doesn’t make sense.
ACA International has long advocated that all lawful businesses making non-solicitation, informational calls to consumers should be able to use modern dialing technology to reach consumers in the way they want to be contacted.
ACA International is continuing to closely monitor developments with the HANGUP Act at the federal and state levels, including the introduction of possible companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and now U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the HANGUP Act in the House of Representatives last year.
Legislation on Debt Collection Practices Introduced in Senate and House
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), with the support of Sen. Lee also introduced legislation to “strengthen protections for consumers against predatory debt collection practices” on Thursday. U.S. Reps. Mia Love (R-Utah) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) introduced a companion version of the Stop Debt Collection Abuse Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This bill will require that all debt collectors—including those acting on behalf of the government — are held to the same high standard and help ensure that consumers are treated with respect, integrity and fairness,” Booker said in a news release.
“The bill mandates all federal agencies be subject to the same high standards of the [Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,] according to the news release.”
It also requires the Government Accountability Office to study debt collection practices at the federal, state and local levels. The bill would also classify that debt buyers are debt collectors under the FDCPA and require that debt collectors for the federal government cannot charge fees that are more than 10 percent of the amount collected from a consumer.
Legitimate debt collectors are focused on compliance and treat consumers lawfully and with respect. ACA International members work with consumers to help them resolve debts they owe and ACA unequivocally condemns fraudulent, abusive and unethical debt collection practices.
ACA International will also continue to closely monitor the status of this legislation.
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