The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the TCPA) restricts telemarketing and the use of automated telephone equipment for phone calls, faxes, and text messages. The TCPA provides a private right of action and significant statutory penalties, and therefore is an area of significant risk for any company that communicates with its customers, particularly by phone or text. In an effort to ease restrictions in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued guidance clarifying that informational calls that are directly related to the imminent health or safety risk arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak and made by certain types of callers are exempt from the TCPA requirements under the “emergency purposes exception.”
Under the TCPA, telemarketers are required to obtain prior express written consent before making calls to landline or wireless phones with prerecorded telemarketing messages and before using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to call or text any wireless phones with telemarketing messages.
Notably, the TCPA expressly excludes calls made for “emergency purposes,” from the Act, including “calls made necessary in any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.” This exception is intended for situations posing “significant risks to public health and safety” where the use of such calls could “speed the dissemination of information regarding” such risks or conditions.