COVID-19 and Telemarketing

The FCC has released a short order clarifying that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an “emergency” under the TCPA.  Accordingly, hospitals, health care providers, state and local health officials and other government officials may place calls and texts about the novel coronavirus as well as mitigation measures, pursuant to the TCPA’s exception for calls made for “emergency purposes.”   The ruling has two key limitations:

  1. The caller must be from a hospital, or be a health care provider, state or local health official, or other government official as well as a person under the express direction of such an organization and acting on its behalf.
  2. The content of the call must be solely informational, made necessary because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and directly related to the imminent health or safety risk arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This seems to pretty clearly indicate that dealers cannot generally rely on the emergency exception under TCPA for text message communications to customers – including otherwise well-intentioned messages about what steps the dealer is taking to respond/hours of operation/policies/etc.  As always, please consult your attorneys if you have questions or need clarification.