FCC Provides Clarity to Schools and Utilities Regarding Use of Robocalls and Text Messages

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Just in time for the back-to-school season, the FCC has granted a request to clarify the ability of schools to make robocalls and send text messages to the families of students.  The FCC also resolved a petition regarding the ability of utilities to use robocalls and text messages to keep customers informed of service-affecting conditions.

The order grants, in significant part, a petition filed by Blackboard that asked the FCC to confirm that text messages sent by schools were not governed by the TCPA because they fit within the “emergency purpose” exception of the TCPA.  The FCC concluded that calls and texts could be sent to “student family wireless phones without consent for emergencies including weather closures, fire, health risks, threats, and unexcused absences.”  The FCC also concluded that other messages closely related to the school’s mission, such as notifications regarding parent-teacher conferences, could be sent if the individual receiving the message had provided the school with his or her mobile phone number.

The FCC also granted a petition filed by Edison Electric Institute and American Gas Association concerning calls and messages sent on behalf of utility companies.  The FCC concluded that “utility companies may make autodialed calls and send automated texts to their customers concerning matters closely related to the utility service, such as a service outage or warning about potential service interruptions due to severe weather conditions, because their customers provided consent to receive these calls and texts when they gave their phone numbers to the utility company.”

The full FCC order is available here: 

http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0804/FCC-16-88A1.pdf