Lawmakers Request FCC to Rescind Rule that Excludes Government Contractors from TCPA


6/18/2018 8:00 AM

Bipartisan, bicameral group also seeks rules that would restrict federal debt collectors from certain use of robocalls and robotexts to contact debtors.

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A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to ignore a Congressional directive in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Senators Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with Reps. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., and Frank A. LoBindo, R-N.J., Friday sent a letter to the FCC urging it to “rescind the Broadnet et al. Declaratory ruling and swiftly implement rules proposed in 2016 to restrict robocalls and robotexts from federal debt collectors, and to take appropriate actions against any caller violating these protections,” according to a press release issued by Markey’s office.

The lawmakers’ outreach is in response to the FCC’s recently issued public notice seeking comment on whether the FCC should reconsider the Broadnet et al. Declaratory Ruling, which formally exempts government contractors from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and establish consumer protections restricting federal debt collectors from robocalling or robotexting. The 2015 Budget Act included a provision directing the FCC to prescribe regulations allowing callers collecting federal debt to robocall and robotext without consent the mobile phones of student loan borrowers, mortgage borrowers, veterans, farmers, taxpayers and anyone else with debt backed by the federal government, according to the press releases.

In the letter addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the lawmakers wrote, “…we believe it was Congress’s intent for the TCPA’s protections to extend to government contractors. Congress demonstrated this intent by passing Section 301 of the 2015 Budget Act, which exempted federal debt collectors from the TCPA. While we oppose this carve out, its adoption is clear evidence that Congress believed that the TCPA already applied to government contractors. Therefore, we must ensure that government contractors are subject to meaningful rules that prohibit them from violating the consumer protections established by the TCPA by rescinding the Boradnet et al. Declaratory Ruling.”

ACA submitted comments addressing the Bipartisan Budget Act. They stated, “Congress created an exemption in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (“Budget Act”) that exempts calls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States from the prior express consent requirement of the TCPA. However, the FCC previously took an extremely narrow reading of this exemption, which deviates significantly from the intent of Congress and the purpose of the exemption.”

ACA International continues seeking TCPA reforms through Congress, the FCC and most recently in its victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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