Two of the most prolific problems that terrorize American citizens in this day and age are robocalls and student loan debts. The worse part of it all is that these two problems are feeding off each other to maximize their impact.
Robocalls and student loan debt has one thing tangent to each other: collection agencies. As the student loan crisis gets worse and worse every year, collection agencies get more and more aggressive in terrorizing debtors, experts say.
They’re calling dead people
One emblematic case for this phenomenon is the case of Navient Corp., one of the nation’s largest student-loan servicing companies with 12 million customers. The collection agency tasked for handling student loan debt collection by the federal government is reportedly becoming more and more belligerent in their collection process, including the calls they send to debtors.
In one particular instance, the company has called a debtor’s sister; they called a number for her grandmother, who died a decade ago; they called a number for her father, who died three years ago; and they began calling her friend and housemate.
And this case is not isolated. According to the data revealed by YouMail Robocall Index, Navient ranks 45th in the most number of robocalls sent in 2018. The collection agency has aggregately sent 3,302,400 robocalls from last year alone.
Meanwhile, the company has been slapped with a series of lawsuits and complaints on how they handle their business, and complainants are calling them out for their “illegal tactics.”
More than 1,100 lawsuits and complaints against Navient has been filed at the Federal Trade Commission in the last three months alone, and more than 150 submitted to the Federal Communications Commission since January 2018 over the company’s “harassing” robocalls.
Furthermore, Navient has also been in the center of two class-action suits over alleged unsolicited calls, agreeing to settle for up to $19.7 million in 2017 and another $2.5 million that was finalized this year. In the 2017 case, plaintiffs are accusing Navient of calling them to collect for student loans they did not make; and the second case blames the collection agency of user automatic dialers to get information about borrowers from third parties.
Nonetheless, the data still reveals that the robocalls are flourishing amidst complaints and lawsuits involving Navient and their calling practices.
“Robocalls from these companies have only gotten worse,” said Billy Howard, an attorney with The Consumer Protection Firm, a law firm in Tampa. “They’re being emboldened by these little small settlements that they force people into. Litigation is just another day at the office to them.”
What is being done?
There could be some sort of relief for student loan debtors as the FCC recently voted to allow telecom companies to block robocalls by default and enable carriers to create tools that would help people avoid numbers that are not in their contact lists.
“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Pai.“And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”
In a similar tone, the Senate and the House of Representatives both have a version of a bill that aims to end the terrorizing robocalls to Americans. Senate’s release, the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act had an almost unanimous vote in the Senate floor with only Rand Paul not voting for it. Meanwhile, the ‘Stop Bad Robocall Act’ has also been proposed by a bipartisan committee in the House and is already set to be voted on this week. It empowers the government and regulatory bodies like the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to levy heavier punishments against robocallers who violate the law.