Buried in President Obama’s deficit reduction plan unveiled Monday was a provision that would allow cell phone calls for the purpose of debt collection. But the brief proposal seemed to cover only debt owed to, or guaranteed by, the Federal Government.

On Page 28 of “The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction,” there is a very brief paragraph that states:

Allow agencies to contact delinquent debtors via their cellular phones. The Administration also proposes to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to facilitate collection of debts owed to or guaranteed by the Federal Government, by facilitating contact of delinquent debtors who are most readily reached on their cell phones. This provision is expected to provide substantial increases in collections, particularly as an increasing share of households no longer have landlines and rely instead on cell phones.

There were no additional details given, but a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget did tell the Huffington Post, “This proposal merely reflects the fact that more and more people rely solely on a mobile phone for their voice communications, and allows debt collectors to call them on these numbers.”

The proposal was included in a section of proposals under the broad heading “Step up collection of debts owed to the Federal Government.” Other proposals in the section include increasing IRS levy authority for Federal contractor payments and offsetting Federal tax refunds to collect State income taxes from debtors who currently reside in other States.

The prohibition on calling cell phones, specifically with auto-dialers, has been a cause of concern for the debt collection industry for years.

“The President’s proposal is consistent with where we’ve been on the use of cell phones to communicate with consumers,” said Mark Schiffman, spokesman for debt collection industry trade group ACA International. “We certainly support this direction as it aligns with what we’ve been advocating for as it relates to the TCPA.”


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