Unless overturned with another proposed bill, a provision in last week's federal budget agreement makes it legal for debt collection companies to robocall cell phones.
The calls won't happen immediately, however, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still needs to write the rules debt collection companies must follow when using robocalls to collect federal debts, like mortgages and student loans.
After notable outcry from consumer advocates, Massachusetts senator Ed Markey and a number of other legislators sponsored the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act of 2015, which would repeal the provision and close the loophole.
Believe it or not, robocalls to cell phones has been illegal since 1991. Despite the law, hundreds of thousands of consumers continue to receive robocalls to their cell phones even if their number is on the federal Do-Not-Call list. Last year, the FCC received more than 215,000 complaints.
The FCC gave phone companies the OK to deploy the use of call-blocking technology that would stop robocalls from ever reaching the cell phones in the first place, but they remain slow to act.
Allowing debt collection companies to contact people via cell phone may not increase the amount of borrowers that pay back their debt.
According to a CNBC.com analysis, two-thirds of the debt-collection complaints made to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were from people who didn't owe anything. The article states:
More than 21,000 consumers reported being harassed about debts that weren't theirs; 10,000 others said the debt had been paid or discharged in bankruptcy. Some 2,200 said the debt in question was the result of identity theft.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is still encouraging consumers to contact their legislators, urging them to support the HANGUP Act. More information can be found here.