The United States Middle District of Florida recently denied Navient Solutions, LLC motion for partial summary judgment based on the argument that student loan servicers servicing government student loans, like Navient Solutions, LLC, are not shielded from actions violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This determination stems from the FCC’s August 11, 2016 Report and Order amending the rules of the TCPA. Specifically, federal government callers and contractors calling to collect a debt on behalf of the federal government, without prior express consent of the called party, may call the person or persons responsible for paying the debt at one of three phone numbers specified in the rules, may call between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. local time at the debtor’s location,may not call once the debtor requests that the calls cease, and must transfer the stop-call request to the new servicer if the debt servicer changes. Cooper v. Navient Solutions, LLC, 2017 WL 1424346 (M.D. Fla. 2017) citing In the Matter of Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, FCC Rcd. 9074, 9088-92 (Aug. 11, 2016). In Cooper, the Plaintiff alleged that Navient Solutions, LLC continued to call her cellular phone even after she revoked consent. Id. The court concluded, “The FCC has unambiguously concluded that federal debt collectors may not make these calls after the debtor requests that they stop.” Id. The court goes on to state, “FCC final orders are binding on this Court if they directly speak to a particular issue. Id. citing Mais v. Gulf Coast Collection Bureau, Inc., 768 F.3d 1110, 1119 (11th Cir. 2014).
The question then turns to, what does this mean for government student loan servicers like Navient? For one, once the debtor has requests that the calls stop, the student loan servicers must stop calling the debtor using an auto-dialer system or pre-recorded message; otherwise, the servicer would be liable under the TCPA with the potential of having to pay $500 to $1,500 per violation. Secondly, companies like Navient can no longer hide behind a vail of protection while they harass and disrupt debtors with unwanted auto-dialed or pre-recorded phone calls. The important distinction to remember when you’re a debtor is that in order for companies these student loan servicers to liable under the TCPA, the debtor must clearly request that the servicer no longer make calls to their cell phone and make sure to document the date and time of the request. If the student loan servicer continues to call you using an auto-dialer system or pre-recorded message after you have requested them to stop, they would be liable under the TCPA.
If you believe that you are receiving auto-dialed or pre-recorded phone calls from a student loan servicer or any other company who is attempting to collect a debt, you should contact a qualified attorney immediately. Contact us to see how we may be able to help you.