A group of six consumer advocacy organizations have filed a notice with the Federal Communications Commission expressing their support to allow the use of automated telephone dialing systems to make phone calls or send text messages during the coronavirus pandemic so individuals can be made aware of economic relief opportunities from their banks and financial services organizations.
The comments, from the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, follow a request from the American Bankers Association and several other trade associations in the financial services industry, asking the FCC to allow individuals to be contacted on their cell phones without first providing consent, as is currently required under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
While the support from the consumer advocacy organizations is limited to calls related to relief on loans that are either secured by homes or vehicles, the concessions being made by the groups indicate their understanding of the economic impact that COVID-19 is having on individuals across the country.
Comments about the request from the banking organizations are due to be submitted to the FCC by May 6. The petition did seek to include “calls or texts placed by banks, credit unions, and other customer-facing financial service providers” which may include debt collectors. But the consumer groups included a couple of specific prohibitions in their endorsement, including the application of “appropriate limits” on call frequency and to “explicitly prohibit any debt collection or telemarketing communication as part of the calls (other than to answer questions from the call recipient about the amount and terms of the debt that is the subject of the calls).”
The ABA is asking the FCC to move “without delay” in granting the appeal, because the current framework will keep the reply comment period open until May 21, nearly six weeks from now.