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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

NACUBO Supports Petition to FCC on Use of Auto Dialers

May 15, 2015

NACUBO has submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of a petition from Blackboard, Inc., asking the agency to reconsider its interpretation of parts of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Specifically, Blackboard requested a "safe harbor" when contacting cellular telephones using automatic telephone dialers and mass text messaging systems.

The TCPA requires entities to obtain an individual's consent before using automatic telephone dialers or mass texting systems to reach a cellular phone, although calls and messages related to an emergency are exempt from this requirement. Using these technologies to contact individuals who have not provided consent can result in fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 per violation.

Regularly, however, these violations occur when an organization contacts a number for which it had obtained consent, only to find that someone else now owns the number. Colleges and universities often find themselves in these situations, as students and graduates frequently change cell numbers without updating their educational institution.

"Colleges and universities should not be subject to penalties for unknowingly contacting a new owner of a cellular number when the institution has express consent to contact the original owner of said telephone number," NACUBO stated in its comments. If an institution discovers that a number is now assigned to someone else, it should immediately stop contacting that number using auto-dialer technology.

Additionally, NACUBO agreed with others that a "called party" should be the person the caller intended to reach, not the person subscribing to the called number at the time a call is made.

How to Obtain Consent

In an Advisory Report focusing on agreements between institutions and students, NACUBO included sample language that colleges and universities may consider using when obtaining consent for the use of auto dialers and mass texting.


Bryan Dickson
Senior Policy Analyst