Debt collectors make money based on their ability to bother people who don’t want to be bothered, but how can you bother people if you can’t reach them?
That’s essentially the argument of ACA International–the trade association that represents the debt-collection industry–which is expressing concerns about a proposed FCC rule that would allow telecom companies to block unwanted robocalls by default. Although ACA wouldn’t use the word “bother,” the group said in a statement Friday that the proposal is problematic because it could prevent legitimate businesses from communicating with consumers.
“We strongly support tailored efforts to combat illegal and fraudulent robocalls which are a huge problem for all of us who are consumers,” Leah Dempsey, ACA International’s senior counsel and vice president of federal advocacy, said in a statement. “However, consumer harm results when legitimate business calls are blocked or mislabeled and people do not receive critical, sometimes exigent information they need. We have urged the FCC to provide guidance on how to immediately correct any faulty blocking or mislabeling of calls.”
The concern is a real one. As phone companies implement more aggressive technologies to combat the scourge of robocall scams, it’s conceivable that some legitimate phone calls will get caught up in the net. As such, ACA International is warning the FCC not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
At the same time, it’s hard to muster much sympathy for this particular baby. Debt collectors are notorious for strong-arm tactics, outright threats, and fraud. And debt-collection agencies have proven, time and again, that they can’t police their own behavior. According to the FTC, debt collectors generate more complaints than any other industry.
The FCC’s proposal will be considered at an open commission meeting on June 6. In addition to giving phone companies more leeway in blocking robocalls, the proposal could give consumers the ability to block all numbers that are not on their contact list. Presumably, that would include the number of that shadowy company harassing you over a 17-year-old credit card debt.