What Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Robocalls

Student loan companies are pushing to call borrowers more often, which could mean an increased number of robocalls.

The Federal Trade Commission received more than 4.5 million complaints about robocalls — prerecorded or autodialed calls — during the 2017 fiscal year, according to the agency’s most recent data.

But the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, a nonprofit membership organization that represents federal student loan servicers, is proposing changes to the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act on robocalls and robotexts. Federal student loan servicers are companies that collect payments, respond to customer service inquiries and perform other administrative tasks on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

[Read: How Debt Collection May Change for Student Loan Borrowers.]

Student loan servicers, like Nelnet Inc. and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, would like the Federal Communications Commission to allow more than three robocalls or text messages per 30 days.

Student loan companies want to be able to contact every endorser, relative, reference and entity in the consumer’s file.

In an effort to get the FCC to weaken consumer protections, the Student Loan Servicing Alliance claims there is no research or evidence to justify limiting the calls or texts.

Petitioners also say that the call limit should be based on live callers rather than attempts to contact, according to the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on consumer issues.

Under the current law, autodialed calls and texts are allowed only if the consumer consents to receive them. The TCPA, which Congress passed in 1991, protects consumers’ privacy and reduces the number of nuisance calls.

In addition to the limit of calls, the TCPA also creates rules that permit calls made by debt collectors when a loan is delinquent. Consumers have a right to stop autodialed, artificial voice and prerecorded-voice servicing and collections calls to their cellphone numbers at any time.

[Read: What Student Loan Borrowers Need to Know About Navient Lawsuits.]

Here is what federal student loan borrowers need to know about robocalls from student loan servicers.

Student loan servicers are allowed to autodial. Unless a borrower has requested not to be contacted via cellphone, most federal student loan borrowers are allowed to be autodialed by debt collectors.

If consumer protections change, delinquent borrowers may receive more robocalls and texts.

Calls are allowed during delinquency to assist debtors in determining whether alternative payment plans are an option before they default. The calls are solely to collect a debt. For that reason, the calls are limited to borrowers who are delinquent or in imminent risk of delinquency.

[Read: How to Manage Old, Unpaid Student Loans.]

Servicers say they do not always have current contact information for student loan borrowers, since they often move and change telephone numbers. For that reason, a cellphone number may be the best way to contact the borrower; using cellphone numbers also helps servicers reach borrowers who need to address their delinquency.

But the NCLC says changes to the limitations would open the floodgates to unwanted robocalls and texts. “Consumers need to tell the FCC not to leave them powerless in their efforts to end the deluge of robocalls,” said Margot Saunders, senior attorney at the NCLC, in a June statement.

Consumers should know their rights. Borrowers can put their cellphone and residential lines on the National Do Not Call Registry. Consumers can add themselves to the registry by going to www.donotcall.gov. Once there, they can check to see if their number is already on the list or add their number. To register by phone, using the toll-free number 888-382-1222, consumers must call from the number they want to add.

Borrowers should also know that debt collectors that use autodial are not allowed to call debtors before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in their local time zone. If a debt collector breaches the rules, a borrower can file a complaint on the FCC website or by calling 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322). Borrowers can also file a lawsuit.

Lastly, consumers who receive calls in violation of the TCPA should obtain and save all phone records and save all voice messages. If the changes proposed by student loan servicers go into effect, it will be important to take action against unwanted calls.

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What Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Robocalls originally appeared on usnews.com

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