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Consumer Advocates and Debt Collectors Fight over Cell Phone Robocalls

If you have received a robocall to your cell phone over a debt, you are not the only one in the Twin Cities, the state, or the country to have experienced this. Consumer advocates are in the air over it, as cell phones have always been protected from these activities. However there is a proposal that has been handed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow robocalls to cell phones.

The proposal would allow debt collectors and other businesses to make robocalls to mobile phones.

When a person applies for a credit card or a loan, they usually sign a form agreeing to allow the creditor to call them. Many of them do give their numbers on credit applications. However, a person with an unpaid debt may give up their cell phone number and that means their number may be assigned to someone else. That means the person the call is intended for is not the one who answers the phone.

But doesn’t this happen with landlines as well?

It does. When someone gives up their number, it is eventually reassigned. The difference between landlines and wireless phones, however, is that landlines are typically listed in the telephone book unless privacy is requested.

ACA international, which is the Minnesota-based association of debt collectors, is the organization pushing for the change. They state that consumers are in jeopardy of not receiving the communication they need about their debts, including identity theft and fraud or even data breach information. Many people, when they have an unpaid bill that could go to collections, will rectify it soon after they hear about it so they can keep their credit intact.

However, opponents of the proposal state that the robocalls would go to a lot of reassigned numbers, resulting in people possibly being harassed for bills they do not owe and sensitive information about consumer accounts being given to the wrong people. It is also stated that anyone could state that the number was wrong, even if it wasn’t. Although landline phones are subject to the same, the incidence is actually less common.

The argument is that robocalls do not stop repossessions, foreclosures, or bad credit reports. In fact, it is believed that a “wrong number” option in the menu could result in collections agencies not having the proper telephone number for a person even when they did call the right number to begin with. Every day, someone tells a collections agency that they have the wrong number when they don’t. While robocalls could reduce the incidence of creditor harassment when agents are told they have the wrong number, recordkeeping could be compromised and that could do a disservice to the agency and the debtor.