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Telephone Consumer Protection Act: COVID-19 Updates and Developments

March 23, 2020

The Federal Communications Commission provided narrow relief to certain entities allowing the use of automatic telephone dialing systems to send “informational” communications directly related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak without violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a declaratory ruling on its own motion regarding the use of automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS) by certain private entities and government agencies to place “informational” calls and to send “informational” text messages concerning COVID-19-related information.

Specifically, the agency confirmed that certain parties may rely on the "emergency purposes" exception to place calls or send text messages using an ATDS and not risk violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Parties placing calls or sending text messages must be hospitals, or “health care providers,” state or local health officials, or other government officials as well as persons under the express direction of such organizations and “acting on their behalf.” Additionally the content of communications must be “informational,” necessary because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and directly related to the imminent health or safety risk arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Morgan Lewis can assist affected entities as to

  • interpreting the scope of relief (e.g., meaning of the term "health care provider");
  • what it means to be acting "under the express direction of such" and "acting on their behalf" as well as "informational" content
  • seeking relief for entities that do not satisfy the narrow relief provided by the FCC in the declaratory ruling (e.g., employers or service providers that would like relief from the TCPA to communicate COVID-19-related messages),
  • seeking relief from the FCC on an expedited basis

Entities and organizations that may consider the implications of this ruling include service providers (cable, telecom, etc.) to business or residential customers, employers (large or small) that may want to communicate with employees or others that use ATDS to originate calls or text messages.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Washington
Andrew Lipman
Ronald W. Del Sesto, Jr.