According to an article from the Washington Post, lawmakers have found a “common enemy” in the increased volume of automatic callers or "robocalls." According to the Post, Americans received around 48 billion robocalls in 2018, and YouMail also reports that robocalls are expected to make up almost half of all calls that Americans receive by the end of 2019.
For servicers, the complicated nature of modern robocalls could cause issues. According to the Urban Institute and a report from the U.S. Treasury, the 27-year old Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) may be preventing mortgage servicers from reaching customers when that contact could be helpful. For example, a servicer might not be able to inform borrowers about mortgage relief options or warn about scams, or reach thousands of borrowers with time-sensitive information during natural disasters such as hurricanes, especially when landlines may be down and cell phones are the only option.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., Head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, proposed a package of legislation that would impose stronger penalties on phone scammers and require telecom providers to adopt authentication tools to enable phone carriers to disclose and verify the origin of an incoming call.
“There’s no silver bullet,” Rep. Pallone said. “That’s why it is so important that we address this problem from every side.”
TCPA fines can cost anywhere between $500 or millions of dollars, adding onto the already high costs of servicing a mortgage, keeping more servicers from reaching out to borrowers via cell phone. Even if a borrower consents to receive calls from a borrower, the Act does not account for a transferred number.
The National Mortgage Servicing Association (NMSA) last year wrote a letter to the to the Federal Communications Commision (FCC), outlining their suggestions for changes to regulations imposed by the TCPA. One suggestion involved a re-examination of the definition of an "autodialer." For example, the NMSA proposed that it should be made clear that the definition of an autodialer does not include dialing from a list, and that the technology used must involve both generating a phone number in random or sequential order and calling that generated number.
In addition, the NMSA supports the FCC's creation of a reassigned number database as well as a "safe harbor" for businesses to check the database. The NMSA also supports the integration of a more structured process in order for consumers to revoke consent to receive calls from a company, giving consumers peace of mind while reducing the headache for businesses to trying to comply with regulations.
Exempting servicers from the Act would give servicers the opportunity to reach out when it would benefit the borrower, and allow borrowers to identify numbers that have been transferred. Another option would be to temporarily exempt servicers from Act requirements specifically during natural disasters in order to send out time-sensitive information.