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11/05/2013
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CRC Automated Calls, Texts in Compliance with Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a statute enacted by Congress over 20 years ago, was created to protect consumers from unwanted telephone calls and faxes, geared to limit the use of autodialed or prerecorded calls. As technologies continue to evolve, the provisions of TCPA have become muddied for certain businesses, especially with regard to contacting consumers to communicate information, including debt collection calls.

Effective October 16, 2013, the TCPA put in place a requirement that all telemarketing calls made to mobile devices or calls containing automated or prerecorded messages require written consent from the called party. As more cooperatives are using technology to communicate with consumers, staff members have been concerned about whether or not they are in compliance with the act since, in many cases, prior written consent was not likely obtained. Violating the act can lead to a $500 fine per violation.

With regard to the TCPA’s impact on electric cooperatives, an exception exists for automated telephone calls that notify consumers of impending or current power outages, whether the outages are scheduled maintenance, unscheduled outages caused by storms, or power interruptions for load management programs (Congressional Record, November 26, 1991, H 11310). Tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations need only obtain prior express consent from its membership to contact them for informational or emergency purposes.

“Based on feedback obtained from an educational session recently provided by NRECA and CRC’s legal counsel, contacting consumers to inform them of possible disconnection due to nonpayment is considered to be either an informational or emergency form of contact as long as the cellular/wireless telephone number was provided to you by the consumer and not a third party,” said Chris Holt, CRC’s president and CEO. “Accordingly, those organizations that use CRC’s phone notification system (PNS) or texting services to notify consumers of power disruptions, including notification of disconnection due to nonpayment, are exempt from the TCPA restrictions effective October 16."

If you have any questions about CRC’s position regarding the TCPA restrictions, please contact Michelle LaVelle, CRC’s Director, Service Excellence, at 423.949.8700 or michellelavelle@crc.coop.