In my previous post, I discussed the annual report on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act issued by the Federal Trade Commission. As noted, the FTC receives more complaints about debt collection than for any other industry. We can expect it to get worse, however, if the collection industry gets it way on a key issue currently under review. Since sweeping changes to rules for telemarketing went into effect in 2003, debt collection firms have also been prohibited from using automatic dialing systems to call consumers’ cell phone numbers. But the industry’s trade association (ACA) is trying to get the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change this rule.
If the industry gets its way, we’ll see the number of complaints increase big-time. Currently collectors can only call cell phone numbers by placing the calls manually, which is very inefficient. In fact, many collection agency telephone systems are configured so their collection reps can ONLY handle calls that are placed via auto-dialer. So if the rule is changed, consumers who are behind on their bills can look forward to getting bombarded with cell phone calls in addition to calls placed to the home or workplace.
The ACA claims that inability to auto-dial cell phones will be “extremely detrimental to the industry and consumers” and “creditors will lose billions” if the rule is not changed.
What nonsense. Inconvenient to the collection industry, sure, but detrimental to consumers? Are there any consumers out there who think it will be beneficial to allow collection agencies to auto-dial their cell phones? The only people who think this is a good idea are debt collectors and auto-dialer equipment vendors.
The National Consumer Law Center has submitted a recommendation to the FCC against changing this rule.
It will be interesting to see the outcome on this debate, which has the potential to affect millions of stressed out indebted American consumers. Meanwhile, the message is clear: Don’t list your cell phone number on any credit-related applications!