On August 4, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling applicable to schools and utilities regarding the application of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to robocalls and text messages to wireless numbers in emergencies.

The FCC ruling states that schools can make robocalls and sent automated texts to wireless phones without consent in emergency situations like weather closures, fires, health risks, unexcused absences and related to the school’s mission, including topics such as an upcoming teachers’ conference. This interpretation is surprisingly expansive, particularly coming from the FCC.

Further, the FCC stated that utility companies may do the same to inform customers of service outages or service interruptions during severe weather conditions. The FCC stated “[T]heir customers provided consent to receive these calls and texts when they gave their phone numbers to the utility company….The information is wanted and needed by consumers, and expected if the consumer gives their telephone number” to the utility company.

This ruling is specific and helpful to schools and utility companies and provides valuable guidance on how to structure robocalls and texts to customers during an emergency without running afoul of the TCPA.