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Mass Live: US Sen. Ed Markey pushes bill to prevent robocalls over federal student loans, mortgages

SPRINGFIELD ‒ With recently passed legislation giving federally backed student loan, mortgage and other lenders the ability to robocall or send unwanted texts to borrowers, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has offered a bill to combat such practices.

The Massachusetts senator’s so-called Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls Act would strike down language included in the Budget Act of 2015, which exempts callers collecting debt owed or guaranteed by the federal government from Telephone Consumer Protection Act provisions – including a requirement for callers to have consent before making auto-dialed or prerecorded calls or texts.

Under the budget language, which has been signed into law, Americans with FHA or Fannie Mae mortgages, Perkins student loans, back taxes or other federally guaranteed debt, could soon receive to robocalls or texts to their cell phones for the first time in nearly 25 years, Markey’s office said.

Borrowers who are up-to-date, as well as those who are behind on their payments could both be impacted by the change. It, however, remains unclear how frequent such communications could be, as the Federal Communications Commission has nine months to create regulations regarding the calls and texts, according to the senator’s office.

Markey, who worked on the 1991 TCPA, stressed that Americans with federal mortgage, student or other loans shouldn’t be subjected to unsolicited calls on their cell phones.

“The (budget) provision opens the door to potentially unwanted and harassing robocalls and texts to cell phones of anyone with a student loan or mortgage and calls to delinquent taxpayers, farmers, veterans or anyone with any debt backed in any way by the federal government,” he said in an interview. “Millions will be impacted. Not only that, but the Congressional Budget Office says this change won’t raise any money for the federal government, it will just increase harassment.”