Robocalls can be annoying. But used in the right context, robocalls can mean the difference between learning about something after the fact in the news and learning about it right away. Currently, telemarketers are not the only entities using robocalls or autodialer systems. Schools also use them to convey important, real time info and send notices to parents.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) regulates the use of autodialer systems. Under the TCPA, a person or entity can use automatic dialing equipment to make calls or send a prerecorded message to cellphones when it is for an emergency purpose or when the caller has given prior written consent.
Prior express consent must be evidenced by a signed, written agreement, between the consumer and seller, which states that the consumer agrees to be contacted by the seller and includes the telephone number to which the calls may be placed. Many schools are likely obtaining prior written consent when parents give their phone numbers to schools on contact cards. The FCC has previously declared that prior express consent is obtained when a debtor provides a number to a creditor because the debtor is effectively granting permission to be contacted at the number in regard to the debt. The FCC has also declared that the law is not intended to disrupt communications that are expected or desired between businesses and their customers. So it is possible that by obtaining a parent’s cell phone number through a contact card, the school is receiving prior express consent similar to when a creditor obtains a debtor’s number in regard to a debt. Parent’s purpose for giving their number to schools is to be contacted about their child and in regard to the school.
The emergency exception also permits the use of autodialer systems. Notifications using autodialer systems, even when prior written consent has not been obtained, are permissible. Emergency notifications are permitted for good reason. Parents should be able to know as soon as possible when an emergency situation is occurring in or around their child’s school. It is easier to send out a message to hundreds of parents with the touch of a few buttons as opposed to making hundreds of phone calls.
So despite the negative perception of autodialer systems, they can actually be very useful when used for the right reasons. The fact that schools can also use autodialer to send information at a moment’s notice is a welcome thought to many. Schools should be mindful though that there is a law that regulates the use of these types of systems.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Robocalls, Autodialers, and Schools, please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at 480.461.5330, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.