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Unpacking the TCPA for Debt Collection Calls with Voice AI

Simone Somekh

August 16, 2022

The debt collections industry is a heavily regulated space; for newcomers, the number of laws and regulations in place can be quite overwhelming. Whenever a new technology or tool emerges, therefore, it is natural to wonder whether it is compatible with the existing laws and whether the provider is fully compliant.

As more collection agencies look into adopting a conversational Voice AI solution to automate their outbound calls for collections, it can be confusing to go through the regulations and determine which ones apply and which ones don’t.

In this article, we’ll unpack one important law — the Telephone Consumer Protection Act — and analyze its key provisions from the perspective of a Voice AI provider.

An Overview of the TCPA

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was first passed by the U.S. Congress back in 1991. Some of its main provisions include regulations on:

  • Telemarketing
  • Calling hours
  • National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry
  • Use of automated telephone equipment
  • Use of artificial or pre-recorded messages

In 2021, more than 1,700 TCPA complaints were filed in federal courts.

But does the TCPA apply to debt collection calls? And how does it affect the use of Voice AI?

Read more: Selection criteria for Voice AI vendors for debt collection

The Key Provisions of the TCPA and Collections

Calling Curfew

Solicitors can’t call customers at night time (indicatively, between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.). However, the specific hours are determined by each state. For example, certain states do not allow calls on Sundays (e.g. Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, among others). During the week, the starting time when calls are allowed varies by state—between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. Calls need to be interrupted between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. depending on the state.

National Do Not Call List

The National Do Not Call Registry was created to stop unwanted sales calls; anyone can register their phone number. Good news! This provision only applies to telemarketing calls. Luckily, debt collections do not qualify as telemarketing. However, if the customer explicitly asks not to be called, the collection agency needs to honor the request.

Self-Identification via Voicemail

If the collection agency wants to leave a voice message to the customer, then the collector must identify themselves and the agency and provide their telephone number.

Calling Mobile Phones

Nowadays, fewer people have landlines at home, and virtually everyone owns a cellphone. Still, the TCPA rules that callers can’t call a mobile phone without prior consent when using an automatic dialer, artificial voice, or a pre-recorded message. Therefore, one must obtain direct consumer consent prior to the use of these technologies to contact cellphones. 

In the next section, we’ll see why Voice AI is not considered an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS).

How the TCPA Impacts the Use of Voice AI

A Voice AI solution like Skit.ai’s does not utilize pre-recorded messages nor does it play a series of pre-recorded scripts offering customers the ability to select one of several paths to additional questions. Skit.ai’s Augmented Voice Intelligence platform is intelligent, dynamic, and conversational.

Dive deeper: Mike Frost’s White Paper on Compliance of Digital Voice Agents in the ARM Industry

In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, a landmark case on the definition of automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the TCPA.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court ruled that equipment that can store or dial telephone numbers without using a random or sequential number generator does not qualify as an ATDS under the TCPA.

When it comes to Skit.ai’s solution, while it does not randomly or sequentially store or dial phone numbers, prior consent is still required.

First of all, there is the issue of artificial voice. Skit.ai relies on advanced voice cloning technology to train the Voice AI using samples of real human voices.

Secondly, the Digital Voice Agent typically does not generate the outbound call on its own; it’s advisable to ensure that the infrastructure used is in compliance with the TCPA.

Please note that the information in this article is not intended to be legal advice and may not be used as legal advice.

For more information and to request a free demo, you can schedule a call with one of our collections experts.


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