Ominous clouds build on the horizon. Winds howl over mountaintops. Lightning crackles across the sky. A blinding blizzard swirls to crescendo. Is it a nightmare? Nope, something that could be much worse—it’s outage season.

Outages can be terrifying, and utilities have engaged in valiant efforts to keep their customers informed during these events—but is their outreach legal? A June 2015 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) update to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) should make utilities evaluate their outbound communication protocols. Under the new regulations, if a utility isn’t careful about how it contacts its customers, it may find itself in what seems like a front-page-news horror story.

The TCPA has strict guidelines, the violation of which can be financially devastating. In fact, a utility can be held liable for $500 in damages per noncompliant call or text message, and that number can triple if the utility knowingly flouts the law. Following is a partial list of the TCPA updates:

  • Companies may contact an incorrect number one time before being subject to penalties.
  • At any time, consumers may use any reasonable channel to revoke their consent to receive communication from a company.
  • Mobile phone apps do not have the right to use the contact list in someone’s cell phone or smartphone to contact customers.
  • Text messages are now categorized as calls.

Our recent report The True Cost of Calls: Tips on How to Comply with the TCPA examines the FCC updates to the law and provides several simple strategies to help utilities mitigate the risk of violating TCPA guidelines (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: TCPA compliance checklist

Use this checklist to help you stay on top of your compliance with Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations.
Five reminders for TCPA compliance: Place opt-out messaging in all outbound text messages and robocalls; Create a stringent process that makes it easy for customers to opt out of inbound contact; Use mobile apps to send notifications along with outage- and emergency-related messages; Use preference centers to enable customers to allow or disallow communications from you, and prompt them to update their preferences annually; Train agents to validate customer contact information when customers call.

Following these basic tips can help protect your utility from potentially nightmarish litigation. Outage season will march on and you’ll continue to communicate with your customers when their power goes out, but hopefully our TCPA compliance tips will help you sleep better at night.

Comments

Great insights! I would guess that many (most?) utility customer service pros don't have telecomm regulations on their radar. Really speaks to the complexity of today's business environment.

Today's business environment is very complicated and the risk of failing to decode the complexities can result in very serious financial consequences for a utility.

Contributing Authors

Director, Customer Experience

Jeffrey Daigle is an expert on contact center operations, customer experience, channel design, operations, digital engagement, and journey mapping....