ABILENE, Texas – September 14, 2016 — On July 8th of 2016, the Federal Communications Commission made a Declaratory Ruling on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in a manner that favored Electric Utilities in regards to how they communicate with their customers. The ruling essentially concludes that clients who provide their contact numbers to the utility, by default, have provided consent to be sent both emergency and non-emergency information relating to their utility. Customers that explicitly communicate their objection to getting non-emergency information while signing up for services are exempt. Before this ruling, it was unclear if only emergency related information was permissible to send to customers that had not provided consent to the utility to use their contact numbers. The TCPA changes open the door for utilities wishing to share more service information with their customers. These notifications should be related to services. For example, service outages or interruptions, meter work, vegetation management, eligibility for low-cost services, and missed payment(s) that could result in electric power cut off.
The ruling now provides significant protections from customers that have brought legal actions against utilities for use of their contact numbers for “non” emergency communications. The ruling has now clarified that while there is no “standard” established by the FCC for getting permissions from customers to be sent non-emergency information, the mere act of providing a contact number to the utility meets the bare minimum requirement of having provided consent. Mark Nielsen, Executive Chairman, TextPower Inc, says “this is an important and very positive development for utilities. The ability to now be absolutely confident that you can send text alerts without having to get customers or members to first “opt-in” massively increases the value of these alerts, especially in the case of widespread storms and outages where reaching as many as possible in the shortest period is critical.”
Milsoft’s position on this sensitive issue is that we still encourage the solicitation of consent for receiving non-emergency utility information related to their services. The FCC also recommends the practice of obtaining explicit consent from customers. However, the legal position technically no longer requires such approval. Milsoft believes that getting critical service information to your client base is a proven sure method of increasing customer service satisfaction and also aids in the effort to restore lost power by keeping your resources focused on power restoration. Moreover, the prolific use of smartphones has significantly reshaped the landscape of personal communications. We feel that all information about utility services are not only welcome, they are expected. We welcome the changes to the TCPA as it helps utilities better serve their customer base while protecting them from the very few that would perceive updates as unsolicited and illegal.
If you have any questions regarding the FCC ruling and how it affects your utility, please contact us at your convenience. You can also download your copy below or view a short video on the subject by Milsoft’s texting partner, TextPower Inc.
To download a copy of the FCC ruling, click here..
To view a video by TextPower on the FCC ruling, click here.
About Milsoft Utility Solutions
The Milsoft team has provided industry leading engineering and operations (E&O) software and much acclaimed customer service and support to electric utilities and related organizations in the US and abroad for more than 25 years. More than 1,000 utilities, consultants, universities, research labs and others use Milsoft software. Milsoft’s Engineering & Operations System integrates Engineering Analysis, Outage Management, Geographic Information, Field Engineering and IVR Communications with each other and with a utility’s other systems, applications and data to enable the most efficient and effective planning, operation and management of an intelligent grid. Learn more at http://www.milsoft.com
TextPower provides text-messaging (SMS) solutions for mission-critical applications ranging from immediate 2-way communications with customers/staff to high security authentication of remote users. Our SmartAlerts™ platform serves dozens of utilities across North America with solutions designed for utilities to receive and send notices of outages to and from consumers, provide real-time load control alerts, Beat The Peak or conservation notices, improve collections with real-time disconnect or low balance alerts, simplify field crew communications, and provide integrated texting solutions with the utility’s outage management system and billing system. Learn more at www.textpower.com