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According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, student loan debt is more than $1 trillion. In another report by CNNMoney, more than 40 million Americans carry student loan debt, and the Wall Street Journal says 7 million of those are in default.
In 2008, the global recession reached economic levels reminiscent of the Great Depression of the twenthieth century, and the global marketplace did a lot of shifting that people are still getting used to. The U.S. has pulled out of the recession very recently, yet their effects still linger. As reported previously, debt-holders are not getting married, buying cars or moving out of their parents’ house, which inevitably stagnates housing prices and slows growth.
While America is recovering from this slew of crises and the negative emotional effects as a result, Congress has struck a deal that is not empathetic to the ongoing struggles of citizens. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was put into place to protect Americans from being harassed by telemarketers and other for-profit organizations and accruing charges as a result of these phone calls. With the advent of mobile devices and fax machines, the TCPA regulation extended to protect cell phones and other devices that could mount charges as a result of being only on the receiving end.
The TCPA prohibited the use of robocalls--computer-automated phone calls and prerecorded messages--as well as text messages to mobile devices if express consent was not given. The reason for this was simple: text messages and mobile minutes incur costs, so if they’re unsolicited it is not fair for these individuals to be charged.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made some adjustments to the TCPA in the name of what they call “Debt Collection Improvements.” Individuals who have taken out federal student loans are now candidates for a new type of collection. Text messages and automated phone calls can be made now, and not just to the loan recipient but to parents and guardians who co-sign for their children.
"Giving one of the most abusive industries in the U.S. free rein to inundate people with robocalls to their cell phones is a terrible idea," said Margot Saunders, of the National Consumer Law Center, in a prepared statement. "Cell phone calls can distract people while driving, interrupt them at their jobs, and needlessly impose a cost on struggling families by using up scarce minutes. Debt collectors regularly call land lines to harass and threaten friends, family, and even strangers with similar names to the debtor. No one will be safe from receiving abusive calls on their cell phones if this provision goes through."
There was a provision included in the bill in which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reserves the right to put a limit to the number of calls and their duration, but even before the TCPA had been altered the FCC received more than 215,000 complaints related to unwanted calls in 2014.
There’s no doubt that this kind of behavior can have a negative impact on a person’s life. Such standards only benefit the special interest groups that shelled out a whopping $220,000 to make it happen. For the rest of us, the hard-working people who make payments on time, we’re left to endure yet another unnecessary distraction.
Facts and Stats
- Debt collectors are free to contact student loan borrowers with unlimited robocalls and automated text messages to their mobile devices.
- Robocalls are computer-dialed phone calls that deliver a pre-recorded message often associated with telemarketers and political campaigns.
- This is a weakening of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that protects people from unwanted robocalls and pre-recorded message.
- As the Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasirpour reported, “The measure in the potential budget deal (Section 301) would amend existing law to allow companies to use auto-dialers when they call borrowers’ cell phones — even when federal student loan borrowers haven’t consented to them, and even if the borrowers will be charged for them.”
- Student loan debt cannot be bankrupted, tax refunds can be garnished for loans in default. Can also affect parents and guardians who cosigned on student’s behalf.
- The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 - Debt Collection Improvements - Previously, it was illegal to make a call that wasn’t an emergency or without prior consent to use an automated dialing system or prerecorded voice to mobile devices … now it is legal to do so if the call is being made to collect a debt owed to the U.S.
- Collectors can also call landlines using the previously illegal methods.
- The commission reserves the right to restrict and limit the number and duration of calls made to mobile devices.
- There was $220,000 devoted to lobbying for this.
- APA reported money as the #1 source of stress for individuals.
- "Giving one of the most abusive industries in the U.S. free rein to inundate people with robo-calls to their cellphones is a terrible idea," said Margot Saunders, of the National Consumer Law Center in a prepared statement. "Cell phone calls can distract people while driving, interrupt them at their jobs, and needlessly impose a cost on struggling families by using up scarce minutes. Debt collectors regularly call land lines to harass and threaten friends, family, and even strangers with similar names to the debtor. No one will be safe from receiving abusive calls on their cell phones if this provision goes through."
- The Federal Communications Commission received more than 215,000 complaints related to unwanted calls in 2014.