TCPA: Can Utilities Send Text Messages to Consumers?
Sending text messages to your consumers just got a little easier for utilities, municipalities, and cooperatives. Thanks to a decision by the FCC on August 4 of last year, “consumers who provide their wireless telephone number to a utility company when:
- they initially sign up to receive utility service,
- subsequently supply the wireless telephone number, or
- later update their contact information
have given prior express consent to be contacted by their utility company at that number with messages that are closely related to the utility service so long as the consumer has not provided instructions to the contrary.” Read the full text of the order here.
Cost Saving Tools
There are still many things to consider when sending text messages, which is why it is important to get advice from a professional. We are proud to partner with TextPower, who has excellent resources on this topic. Check out this video from TextPower for an attorney’s point of view on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Also, see this blog about how they can help your utility tackle the problem of not sending messages to a number that has been disconnected and reassigned to someone else.
Another important thing to consider when communicating with consumers via text message is the ability to know who has received and opened your message. Even more importantly, you need an easy way to identify what phone numbers in your database are mobile numbers. Over, 40% of US households no longer have a landline phone, but list their mobile as their home or primary phone number. Daffron has developed tools to help your utility with this issue. We have partnered with TextPower to offer Daffron customers an audit or scan of your phone number directly in your CIS database so that you are not wasting money by sending messages to landlines or numbers that have been disconnected.
Additionally, our Consumer Communications module offers you the ability to monitor the delivery status of the text messages, which is updated by the phone carrier. Similar functionality extends to emails and other system-generated messages. When sending emails from within the Consumer Communication module, you also have the ability to see when an email is opened and which links have been clicked within each email.
Top Uses of Text Messaging Among Utilities
The November 2016 edition of RE Magazine, published by NRECA, talked to several industry leaders about this issue, and they emphasized the positive impact of this ruling on Cooperatives, as it allows them to continue to implement and grow “Beat the Peak” and prepay programs for their members. The following are some of the most popular ways that cooperatives and municipalities are using text messaging to improve communication with consumers.
- Prepay notices
- Storm warnings
- Beat the Peak initiatives (to reduce usage during peak times)
- Outage notices
- Bill due reminders
- Delinquent notices
- Payment confirmations
- Company announcements and more!
Utilities Currently Using Text Messaging
CDE implemented notifications through the Daffron Consumer Communications module as a part of their Prepaid Billing Project. They are sending notifications to consumers for payments received, low balance alerts, and late payment notices to help improve communication. They look forward to expanding the use of notifications in many other areas.
Alpena Power Company (APC)
APC plans to use Bill Ready, Bill Due, Payment Processed, and Delinquent notifications. They are preparing to offer consumers email and text options for notifications in the near future. APC plans to communicate the new notification options to consumers by advertising their options on bills, on their home page, and making fliers available at the counter for walk-up customers. Every six months, a company report is published with important statistics about APC’s service and used as a bill insert. An insert encouraging consumers to sign up for their preferred notifications may be used as a part of that communication as well.
Contact Us for Help
As utilities continue to enhance the way that they communicate with consumers, Daffron will continue to provide resources and solutions to help meet those needs. Use our contact form if you have any questions on this topic or want information on any of our products and services.