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Beyond the News

Colleges face new rules on automated calls and texts

Updates require written consent for cold calls, other communications
University Business, December 2013

Recruitment practices at private colleges and universities just got a little more complicated under the 2013 updates to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The updates, which went into effect Oct. 16, require schools to receive written consent for all autodialed and prerecorded calls and texts sent or made to cell phones, as well as for prerecorded calls made to residential landlines for marketing purposes. If they don’t comply, it could get expensive. Statutory damages range from $500 to $1,500 per unlawful automated call or text, so a class action enforcement could easily cost a school a hefty chunk of change, Bloomberg reports.

Many schools generate most of their prospects through their websites or pay-per-click campaigns, says Julie Foley, vice president of client services for Effective Student Marketing, which provides student recruitment services for career colleges.

On many school websites, prospects who enter personal information are now being asked to check a box authorizing robocalls or text messages.

How might all of this effect a college’s or university’s marketing efforts? Prospects may not submit their personal information if they read a disclaimer saying they may be contacted by an autodialer, says Foley. That’s why it’s important to present the information about consent in a location and language that will ensure consent is given. Developing an effective presentation will likely require some trial and error.

An infographic created by Foley’s firm offers sample disclosure language for an online lead form: “By checking this box and submitting this form, I agree to receive phone calls and/or text messages from or on behalf of [XYZ School], regarding their products and services, at the phone number(s) provided on this form, including my wireless number (if applicable). I understand that these calls may be generated using an automated technology. I understand that consent is not a condition of purchase.”

In tests before the new TCPA rules went into effect, Foley says the consent box didn’t have a huge impact on a student’s likelihood to submit a form. But time will tell if enrollment is affected in any way.

And what if someone doesn’t give consent and the school is unable to get that person on the phone in a timely manner? Foley says her firm is still trying to determine if that might have an impact on whether the prospect winds up becoming a student.

Finally, it’s not just about getting written consent. A school must be able to prove it received consent in case any complaints arise. Capturing the IP addresses of people who submit forms provides an extra level of protection.