Changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Using mass notification for legitimate marketing purposes just got a little more complicated. New regulations for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) went into effect on October 16, 2013, imposing written consent requirements for prerecorded or autodialed telemarketing calls.

text message cell phonesThe TCPA applies to both voice and SMS text messages, if they are transmitted for marketing purposes. The TCPA was designed to prohibit the sending of unsolicited commercial messages to landlines and cell phones.

By definition a “telemarketing” call includes those that offer, market, or promote products or services to consumers. If a call is conducted to induce the purchase of goods or services, it is a telemarketing call. Even calls that have both an informational component and a telemarketing purpose are considered to be telemarketing (e.g., calls or text messages reminding consumers that their gift certificates or coupons are about to expire).

Calls and messages sent for emergency purposes, information delivery only or other non-commercial purposes are exempt from the FCC’s regulations.

Other exceptions include the following:

  • Calls for noncommercial purposes, including school and university notifications, airline notification calls, bank and credit card balance and fraud alerts, research or survey calls, package deliveries, and cellular usage notifications
  • Calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations (although nonprofit entities engaged in for-profit-type activities should remain cautious)
  • Calls for political purposes
  • Debt collection calls
  • Calls made by loan servicers regarding the servicing of a consumer loan or home loan modification, and refinance calls placed by loan servicers

As of October 16, 2013 you must have prior express written consent before the pre-recorded message call or SMS text is placed. This consent can be obtained in electronic or digital form, which can include email, website form, text message, telephone key-press or voice recording.

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