By Mike Stetzer
Attention, cell phone users!
Early this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made an important ruling concerning how creditors and debt collectors are allowed to contact consumers when trying to collect debts, according to ACA International's website.
ACA International, an association of workers in the credit and collection industries, reports that creditors are now permitted to contact debtors on their cell phones, which was previously prohibited under the terms of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991.
The TCPA provides guidelines for telemarketers, including restrictions on when they can call residential numbers, how much identification information they are required to give and which numbers they are not permitted to call.
One of TCPA's guidelines was that those using electronic communications to contact consumers were forbidden to use any method that would cost the consumer money. This rule was put in place as a protection against cell phone users owing huge bills for calls they never wanted to receive.
But the FCC's new ruling has removed that restriction for debt collectors. Specifically, creditors can now use pre-recorded phone messages to alert cell phone users about debt owed.
ACA International evidently petitioned the FCC as early as October 2005 to lift the restrictions on contacting debtors via cellular phones. The ACA has touted the FCC's ruling as great news for debt collectors-which can mean bad news for debtors.
But, according the FCC's decision, when a consumer provides a creditor with his cell phone number at the time of purchase, that action serves as giving consent for the creditor to contact him at that number. A reasonable argument, certainly.
Because debt collectors aren't trying to sell consumers anything, simply attempting to collect a debt the consumer owes, they are now permitted to contact consumers at their mobile numbers.
So what does this mean for you?
If you have a landline, you should provide that number when necessary to make a purchase or fill out a credit card application. Most landline payment plans don't charge the user for incoming calls, unlike many cell phone programs.
If you have already provided your cell phone number to creditors, consider contacting them to have that number removed.
If you're unsure how to proceed with your finances or are worried about your current level of debt, you may want to consider contacting an attorney for help with your financial situation and information about filing bankruptcy.