On October 16 of last year, the FCC (News - Alert) announced more stringent measures in an effort to harmonize its rules and legislation enacted to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls. Dubbed the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), it puts consumers in charge of the number of telemarketing calls they get.
The TSR (News - Alert), which established the National Do Not Call Registry that prohibits telemarketers from calling people who registered online and opted not to be called by solicitors, requires marketers utilizing call centers to get permission from consumers before calling them; businesses need to obtain prior written consent—which can be a signed document or an electronic form—before placing a robocall to a consumer. This is, purposely, to protect consumer privacy rights. In addition, “an established business relationship no longer relieves advertisers of prior written consent,” as stated by Chief Marketer, an online source for marketing leaders, in a post on “TCPA Changes.” FCC telemarketing rules also call for the requirement of an automated, interactive "opt-out" mechanism during each robocall. Such legislation offers greater protection to consumers to prevent them from receiving unwanted SMS solicitations and calls.
These rules help implement the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law passed by Congress in 1991 that restricts telephone and text solicitations. The Federal Communications Commission’s new rules were enacted in response to a growing number of consumer complaints regarding telemarketing calls and texts (so-called robocalls). They are geared toward stopping deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts and practices; however, there are still some consumers that are still receiving prerecorded voice calls.
“Companies utilizing auto or predictive dialers to reach customers [need] to get acquainted with the new rules [governing telemarketing] and take the appropriate steps to maintain compliance” – i.e., to make sure that there are procedures in place. As per the Chief Marketer post, “marketers need to employ tracking to make sure they don’t make mistakes”; callers ought to fully comply with the tougher new telemarketing laws and regulations. It is they who need to abide with the FCC’s directives regarding the rules about autodialers and cell phone telemarketing restrictions. The post further states that “marketers utilizing call centers as part of their lead-generation process must make sure marketing partners are compliant with the revised Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations.”
Nowadays, those who engage in an unwanted telemarketing practices will be held accountable for their actions. Violators will be faced with steep penalties; they could be fined as much as $1,500 per violation, said William Heberer, an attorney at Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP., who mentioned the figure in a post titled “A lawyer’s take on the TCPA amendments for calling and texting,” available on the Mobile Marketer website. The post here also lists some of the large class action lawsuits against some companies involved in large scale “robo-call” computerized solicitation.
In sum, the FCC revised its TCPA rules of written procedures to comply with the national do-not-call rules. It requires businesses that conduct specific lead-generation activities, such as telemarketing or advertising, to become compliant with the rules set forth in the document 47 U.S.C. § 227 when using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice machine. Calls with a commercial purpose without written consent are not allowed, unless the call initiated is for emergency purposes or is exempted – i.e., calls that are manually dialed and do not contain a pre-recorded message are exempt from the TCPA.
The new rules might seem penalizing for marketers and only the call centers. In reality, the new TCPA amendments, which provide consumers with options to avoid unwanted telephone solicitations, “bring[s] clarity, accountability and transparency to all parties involved,” says DC Cullinane, CEO of ThinkingVoice, a company that provides software that helps call centers improve compliance and agent optimization. He believes the new rules “are very closely tied to mobile phone usage […] problems arose when marketers did things like processed a large number of mobile leads and automatically put them on recurring text alerts.” Cullinane also believes that the TPCA changes can improve things in call centers and “weed out the bad and focus on the good,” and he believes the new rules can help everyone operate in a more efficient way.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson