Government debt collectors would be able to robocall an individual three times per month to provide information or collect payment, according to a proposal adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC quietly approved the proposed rules in a party-line vote last week and began seeking comment.
A budget deal approved last year included a small carveout that began exempting the government from laws that bar most automated or prerecorded calls from going to a cellphone. The provision said the government could make robocalls if they were solely made to collect debt owned by the government.
The FCC was tasked with coming up with some limits by Aug. 2.
“In taking this first step toward implementing these requirements, as Congress instructed, we recognize and seek to balance the importance of collecting debt owed to the United States and the consumer protections inherent in the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act],” according to the proposal.
The rules adopted last week also proposed that debt collection calls could only be made after a borrower is delinquent on a payment. But it also proposed allowing for debt service calls, which can inform borrowers about plans to keep them from defaulting on their debt.
The proposal would also give people the right to ask for the debt collection calls to stop.
The proposed rules are likely to set off a long back and forth between government agencies. Republicans at the FCC blasted the proposal, saying the three-call-per-month limit did not fit with standard practice.
Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly cited statistics from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which recommends at least two calls per week until contact is established. He also cited Treasury Department policies that recommended at least four calls within a 30-day period.
The first set of comments on the proposal is due by June 6. The second round will be due by June 21.