The telephone is the professional debt collector’s primary tool. It allows us to reach debtors in a simple cost effective way, and when used effectively, can very successfully help collect a debt. In the mean time, use of the phone also gives debt collectors a means of reaching the debtor, without immediately jumping to more drastic and forceful measures, like utilizing the court system.
Unfortunately, the debt collection industry’s ability to use the phone has been severely compromised as a reaction against those members of the industry that abuse the practice. This is a typical, throw out the barrel because there’s a single bad apple in the bunch, reaction. This legislation is particularly restrictive when it comes to calls to cell phones.
This legislation was put in place at a time when the cost of a cell phone call was astronomical. The emerging technology for cell phones made the price of ownership and the cost to use the technology sky high. Today we see players like T Mobile, and others, making deep discounts on plans and offering unlimited phone and text. The landscape has changed, the laws have not.
The laws have not, UNLESS, you owe a debt to the people that make the laws. There’s a different set of laws when collecting a government debt. We wonder if those are an indication of future changes for the industry, or if it is simply favoritism to those that create the laws.
The new exception specifies that, in a clearly defined and limited way, entities can now place calls or texts to mobile devices for the purpose of “collecting debts owed to or secured by the federal government.”
This change is a direct response to information gleaned from a 2015 Treasury Department study showing that the government has $1.3 TRILLION of non-tax receivables, of which $162.1 billion is delinquent.
Under the new provisions, a debtor can receive no more than three calls per 30-day period on their cell phone from government debt collectors, and only during the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Federal debt collection robocalls cannot exceed 60 seconds, and consumers have the right to stop them at any time. Entities acting on the government’s behalf can make debt collection calls to the wireless phone number provided by the debtor at the time the debt was incurred, to a wireless number subsequently provided to the debt’s owner by the debtor, or to a number that the debt owner has acquired from “an independent source,” although the entity making the calls on behalf of the debt holder has the obligation to scrub its numbers regularly to ensure the accuracy of dialed numbers.
Given the growing and unstoppable trend of cord cutting, most millennials have no knowledge of what a land line to the home even is, let alone have any desire to have one. One number, the cell phone number, is all that a growing percentage of the population have. To force legitimate collection efforts into the court system to satisfy a debt, because our ability to contact a debtor by phone has been compromised, based purely on the actions of a few bad apples, and the antiquated notion of metered calling where people paid astronomical fees for the mobile phone, is not helpful to the debtor, the creditor, or the collection industry.
It is our hope that this crack in the damn to allow government robocalls to cell phones, is the begining of revised legislation overall, and not simple “pick and chose” favoritism. Time will tell. History, however, does not favor the industry, and it is likely that restrictions on legitimate debt collection professionals will remain.