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FCC Ruling Helps Clarify What COVID-19 Texts and Calls Are “Emergency” Under TCPA

The FCC recently issued a declaratory ruling explaining what calls and text message alerts it viewed as “emergency” for purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Under TCPA, requirements to obtain consent to make certain calls and texts to cell phone numbers do not apply when a message is an “emergency.” Under the FCC’s new ruling, certain calls and texts from government officials and healthcare providers about the COVID-19 pandemic will be viewed as emergency messages.

This ruling is narrow. First, the call or text must be from a hospital, health care provider, state or local official, or other government official. (Or initiated by a person acting under the express direction of such an organization.) Second, the message must provide information directly related to imminent health or safety risks arising out of the pandemic. Examples might be a government-issued “shelter in place” text, or a text from a hospital with vital information intended to slow the spread of the virus. The exception thus does not apply to general information about COVID-19, nor information about the pandemic that comes companies that do not fit into the narrow scope (hospital, health care providers, etc.).

Putting It Into Practice: This ruling provides direction for hospitals, health care providers and others about what might be viewed as an exception to the need to obtain consent prior to sending the call or text.

 

Copyright © 2020, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 101

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About this Author

Liisa Thomas, Sheppard Mullin Law Firm, Chicago, Cybersecurity Law Attorney
Partner

Liisa Thomas, a partner based in the firm’s Chicago and London offices, is Co-Chair of the Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice. Her clients rely on her ability to create clarity in a sea of confusing legal requirements and describe her as “extremely responsive, while providing thoughtful legal analysis combined with real world practical advice.” Liisa is the author of the definitive treatise on data breach, Thomas on Data Breach: A Practical Guide to Handling Worldwide Data Breach Notification, which has been described as “a no-nonsense roadmap for in-house and...

312-499-6335
David M. Poell Business Trial Attorney Sheppard Mullin Chicago, IL
Associate

David Poell is an associate in the Business Trial Practice Group in the firm’s Chicago office, particularly focusing on the areas of consumer privacy and class action litigation.

Areas of Practice

David represents companies in a variety of class actions, multi-district litigations and other complex commercial litigation matters in state and federal courts. He specializes in defending corporate clients in high-stakes litigation matters involving federal consumer-protection statutes, privacy torts, unfair business practices, false advertising claims and large-scale data breaches.

David is also particularly experienced in prosecuting and defending actions involving the enforcement of restrictive covenants and non-competes, deceptive trade practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, the Lanham Act and unfair competition. He further advises companies regarding privacy matters matters and provides counseling on compliance with FCC, FTC and state-specific rules and regulations. 

In addition, David works on appellate litigation matters and is well-versed in issues involving administrative law, Article III standing issues and federal jurisdiction. 

Pro Bono

Of note with regard to his pro bono practice, David previously represented a prisoner in an Eighth Amendment excessive force trial in the Eastern District of Missouri.

312-499-6349