How the TCPA Impacts Schools and Utilities
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), several protections are granted to the average American citizen with a phone number. Whether you have a cell phone or still cling to a landline, companies cannot call you without your consent for marketing or non-emergency purposes. There are very few exceptions to the rules, and recently a few more have been granted to schools and utilities.
In August 2016, the Federal Communications Commission released a Declaratory Ruling granting schools and utilities more freedom under the TCPA. The ruling considered non-marketing calls or texts from schools and utilities. By definition, a “robocall” is a call or text placed with an autodialing system. In general, such calls are prohibited (except for emergency purposes) to landlines and cell phones without the recipient’s express written consent. Under the new ruling, however, these communications are permitted so long as certain criteria are met.
NEW FREEDOMS FOR UTILITIES
Under the Declaratory Ruling, which you can view here, utility companies are assumed to have prior express consent to place robocalls regarding issues that are “closely related to the utility service.” These calls can only be made to customers who have given their numbers to the companies. The types of non-emergency calls now allowed include:
- Warnings about expected outages
- • Updates about service outages or the restoration of services
- • Calls to confirm the service will be restored or calls providing information about the lack of services
- • Calls warning that payment or other issues may be prohibiting the continuation of services
- • Calls to customers letting them know that they are eligible for reduced cost or subsidized services
Though these calls are permitted by the TCPA, the responsibility still falls on the utility provider to prove that consent was given by the customer when the customer provided his or her phone number.
CALLS ACCEPTABLE BY SCHOOLS
Per the Declaratory Ruling, schools can now lawfully place robocalls for non-emergency reasons, so long as they have prior consent. Calls that are closely tied to a school’s “mission” such as notifications about parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings, and school events are now permissible. Schools may also notify parents and staff about school closures. The school must also demonstrate that the recipient consented by providing the school with a valid phone number.
Schools and utilities are still subjected to other requirements of the TCPA, such as having an option for recipients of calls to opt-out of their communications, as well as stopping all communications once it is discovered that the phone number has been reassigned. If you are receiving unwanted phone calls or texts without your consent, you may be eligible to receive $500 to $1,500 per unwanted call or text message. Contact Jibrael S. Hindi and his team of Fort Lauderdale consumer law attorneys today. You do not pay a dime until Jibrael wins for you!