Understanding the TCPA

Big Win For Utilities: The TCPA Laws Clarified

Utilities want to provide the best possible service to their customers.  TextPower wants to provide the best possible service to utilities.  Until a recent development our customers have been confused about what they are allowed to do. The Federal Communications Commission’s “TCPA” regulation needed clarification; it finally got some.

TCPA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, was originally designed with good intentions.  Nobody wants to have their dinner or favorite TV show interrupted by an uninvited telemarketing phone call.  TCPA tries to stop that.  It says that services can’t make a call or send a marketing-related text message without that user’s explicit permission.  The phone and texting industries call this an “opt-in.”

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Why is this TCPA important?

Cell phones have become our personal companions and the need to protect them from abuse is real.  This is especially true because more than 40% of households in the U.S. don’t even have a landline phone anymore.  There wasn’t enough clarity in the law, though. It left doubt as to whether you could send important information via text message and still comply with the law.

Utilities want to be able to send a text message to customers advising them when their power is out, or going to be out, or when it would be restored.  You might also want to inform them when a storm is coming or if they needed to make a payment to avoid service termination.  Most importantly you want to be able to do it cost-effectively and fast.  TextPower sends up to 250 messages PER SECOND.  Our text messages communicate important information to utility users faster than any other method.

But you may have been reluctant to use text messaging for these purposes because of the lack of clarity surrounding the TCPA.  Thankfully, what was unclear before is now crystal clear thanks to what is called a “declaratory ruling” by the FCC.  TextPower, in fact, had petitioned the FCC in support of a filing made by the Edison Electric Institute requesting this clarification.  We just wanted to know if it was okay to send a text message containing important or emergency – but not marketing-related – information without a customer having “opted in” to receive it.

It’s clear now…

The FCC issued a ruling on August 4th that makes it crystal clear that it is absolutely permissible to do so.  As long as that customer has given you their mobile number in the normal course of doing business you can text important information to them related to their utility service.

This means you can text information such as:

  • storm alerts
  • notices about tree trimming
  • meter readers coming by
  • usage that could lead to brown outs
  • payment issues
  • anything that could impact delivery of someone’s service.

…without the member/customer having to “opt-in” as long as they provided you with their mobile number.

This doesn’t mean you can send debt collection messages after service has been disconnected – you can’t.  Nor can you send offers for discounted goods through the arrangements with local businesses or marketing messages similar to that.  A good practice is also to always include “Reply STOP to quit” in the text messages.  This way people can opt out of future messages if they choose to.

But make no mistake – you absolutely can send messages with information that is important for your users related to their service without being concerned about violating the TCPA rules.

How does TextPower help with TCPA?

TextPower offers a couple of services that can help you do this right.  We can upload a list of numbers from your customer information system (CIS) into our database.  We “scrub” the list by looking up each number so that only wireless numbers are stored in our system.  This can also help you clean up your CIS database.

Our TCPA Compliance Program automatically processes disconnected numbers from cellular carriers nationwide.  TextPower compares them against your list of phone numbers and removes disconnected numbers.  This prevents you from inadvertently sending a text to that number after it is reassigned.

You can subscribe to our service that delivers a list to you of numbers that have been disconnected.  That way you can remove them from your records to avoid making phone calls to them.

We’re here to help you do it right

Thanks to the efforts of many people in the utility industry the TCPA regulation is no longer unclear.  If you have someone’s mobile number you can text important or emergency information to them.

For assistance on getting this program setup just call us at 888.818.1808 or email Info@TextPower.com.  We’ll help you communicate with your customers legally, properly and efficiently through our great text messaging service.

Thanks for your time.  As always, TextPower really appreciates your business.