According to a recent National Health Survey, 50.8% of households had only cellphone service in the second half of 2016. This is the first time that the survey indicated that more households exclusively used cellphone service than a landline. It is a trend that is expected to continue.
While the new parity in cellphone usage is interesting, it is also important from a public policy perspective. Under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), businesses face more legal obstacles when communicating with their customers by cellphones. The law is especially harsh when automated calls or texts are sent to cellphones. The TCPA was enacted when cellphones were novel and expensive. Users were charged per minute of use, even for incoming calls. This is far rarer today when most plans allow unlimited incoming calls.
Now that cellphone use has reached parity with the landline and costs continue to fall, it may be time for the Congress and FCC to reexamine the laws and regulations governing business calls to cellphones. For example, the TCPA permits businesses freer access to calling and texting a person with whom they a business relationship on a landline than a cellphone. The TCPA is also not clear on a business’s right to contact a customer by automated calls and text when a cellphone is the customers only phone. Such a call could be a violation of the TCPA as it is currently interpreted. There is an army of class action lawyers ready to pounce when business owners make a technical mistake in how they contacted their customers. For now, self storage operators who use automated call technology should include a provision in their rental agreement expressly authorizing the storage operator to contact the customer by automated calling technology.