CUNA and other organizations Monday requested the Federal Communications Commission issue some form of ruling, clarification or waiver that calls from financial institutions to consumers related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are “call[s] made for emergency purposes. The calls, even if made with an automated telephone dialing system, or prerecorded or artificial voice, should fall under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) Emergency Purposes Exception.
“The calls that banks, credit unions, and other customer-facing financial institutions seek to place on matters related to the pandemic are intended to protect or support the financial health or safety of consumers,” the petition reads. “Calls that advise consumers of branch closings, service limitations, reduced hours, or the availability of remote banking and other remote customer service options protect the physical health or safety of consumers and employees, by preventing unnecessary physical contact between consumers and employees. As such, these calls related to COVID-19 clearly fall within the Emergency Purposes Exception.”
The FCC confirmed March 20 that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an emergency under the TCPA. However, neither the FCC nor the courts have addressed the application of the Exception in the context of calls placed by financial institutions during a public health emergency.
“The lack of Commission and judicial precedent and the threat of class-action litigation may lead financial institutions to limit the communications they send to assist consumers on matters related to the pandemic,” the letter reads. "This result would thwart the directives issued by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and the Federal banking agencies that financial institutions should work ‘constructively’ and ‘prudently’ with consumers impacted directly or indirectly by COVID-19. Constructive engagement with consumers is best achieved by proactive outreach communication by the institution through phone calls and text messages.”