TCPA and Utility Emergency Calls

The FCC has issued a Declaratory Ruling extending the emergency purpose exemption in the TCPA to include calls and texts from both utility companies and schools. The Ruling, in effect, expands the scope of “prior express consent” for these organizations to consumers and parents who have previously provided a wireless number.

This latest Declaratory Ruling gives utilities permission to send automated texts and calls to customers who provide their wireless number when signing up for services as long as those communications are “closely related to the utility service.” According to the FCC, this may include messages about:

  • Planned and unplanned service outages
  • Notifications of service restoration
  • Notices of field work
  • Warnings of potential brown-outs

The Ruling also allows utility companies to send messages about eligibility for low-cost services and failure to pay notices.

It is important to note here that, while failure to pay notices can now be sent via text and robocalls to consumers who have provided their cellphone numbers, post-service payment and debt collection calls continue to be illegal, even in cases where express consent has been given. If you begin receiving harassing texts or automated calls regarding debt collection, our Chicago consumer protection attorneys can help. Give us a call at (888) 517-9115 to learn how we can protect your rights.

School Emergencies

As with emergency calls from utilities, this Ruling allows schools to contact parents via text or robocalls over health and safety concerns. This includes:

  • Dangerous persons
  • Threats
  • Health risks
  • Fires

Unexcused absences and weather closures are also allowed under this ruling.

While school districts are seldom in violation of TCPA protections, the FCC has asked that measures be taken to prevent accidental communication with consumers whose children no longer attend school as well as those who have been given a wireless number that previously belonged to a parent.

Withdrawing Express Consent

For both utilities and schools, express consent can be withdrawn at any time. What’s more, consumers and parents maintain the right to withdraw consent in any “reasonable manner.” This means that neither utility companies nor school districts can come up with their own process for consent withdrawal.

If you believe you are being asked to complete a specific or unreasonable process for the withdrawal of your express consent, our consumer protection lawyers can help. Please contact Markoff Leinberger online or by calling (888) 517-9115 to schedule a free consultation at our Chicago office and learn more about your rights.


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