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Is Congress Leaning Toward Some TCPA Exemptions?

March 02, 2016
By Rory J. Thompson - Web Editor

Depending on which side of the fence you stand on, the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) is either a boon or a boondoggle.

If you’re a consumer tired of getting telephone sales pitches while you’re trying to relax at home, it’s a pretty good law, offering you protection from such calls and legal recourse if you’d care to go after violators.

If you’re in the business of calling people in order to make your living, the line is less clear. And now Congress is about to muddle the waters even further.

According to a recent online post by law firm Klein Moynihan Turco (KMT), Congress reportedly entered a little-noticed line item into a federal budget bill last fall.

“Congress quietly slipped a provision into a budget bill that directed the Federal Communications Commission to adopt implementing regulations for a proposed exemption to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” KMT reported. “Last week, a draft rule was circulated to the full FCC (News - Alert) which aims to protect certain types of contact with consumers from potential liability.”

That “type of contact” would allow automated calls to be made “solely to collect a debt owed to, or guaranteed by, the United States government,” KMT says. One example might be students who have defaulted on federal loans.

Right now, they’re protected against such calls, leaving the government in the lurch in its attempts to collect. Removing such auto-dial distinctions might make collecting efforts easier for the government, by putting continued pressure of those who owe.

“As the FCC opens up the comment period, there is hope within the industry that the agency may also eventually provide safe harbor to exempt calls made solely for the purpose of collecting private debt, under similar circumstances as the FCC intends to exempt calls made for the collection of government debt,” KMT stated. “It will be important for those in the industry to maintain a watchful eye on how broadly or narrowly the FCC ultimately discharges its congressional mandate.”

In other words, if you’re in the calling business, this might well be a window into more opportunity. Stay tuned.