The American Bankers Association (ABA) and several other banks and credit unions have petitioned the FCC to make all COVID-19 related calls and text messages exempt from liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as the communications are “for emergency purposes.”

According to the FCC’s “emergency purposes” exception to the TCPA, a caller does not need the consent of a recipient to place an autodialed or prerecorded call or send a text in a situation “affecting the health and safety of consumers.” The FCC has already confirmed that the COVID-19 Pandemic qualifies as an emergency under the TCPA, and that state and local governments, hospitals, and healthcare providers can use the emergency purposes exceptions to make calls directly related to health risks around COVID-19. However, they have not commented on whether a TCPA COVID-19 exception can apply to calls placed by financial institutions.

TCPA COVID-19 Exception

Now, the ABA and other petitioners are looking to implement the financial provisions of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. Specifically, they are looking to exempt three categories of unsolicited communications normally covered by TCPA consent requirements. These include exemptions for:

  1. Calls or texts concerning modifications to mortgages or loans.
  2. Calls or texts about branch closings, service limitations, and remote banking services.
  3. Calls or texts containing fraud and identity-theft warnings.

The petitioners believe that these proposed exemptions are in the best interest of the “financial health and safety” of consumers, and that the FCC should declare that these communications are for “emergency purposes” and free from liability. Notably, the petition ensures that any call or text placed under the FCC relief would be purely informational and would not include any advertising or marketing content. 

Until a decision is made for a TCPA COVID-19 exception, the petitioners are asking the FCC to temporarily wave TCPA liability for calls and texts from financial organizations that pertain to COVID-19.

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