By Donna Fluss
Recent changes in outbound dialing legislation and consumer protection regulations – specifically changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – have the outbound dialing sector scrambling. Companies of all sizes in most verticals (with exception of fund-raising and political campaigns), including outsourcers who use outbound technology, are struggling to interpret and understand exactly what these new rules mean, their potential impact, and how to apply them.
What Is TCPA? The TCPA, enacted by Congress in 1991, was the first federal law to establish regulations for telemarketing and commercial sales. Intended to safeguard consumers from uninvited sales and telemarketing calls and faxes, the TCPA regulates how, when, and to whom commercial solicitation calls or faxes can be made. In the original TCPA legislation, companies that had an “established a business relationship” with a consumer could bypass the requirement to obtain written consent from the customer to receive solicitation calls. However, they still had to comply with four other principal requirements that addressed:
1) Proper caller identification requirements
2) Calling hour restrictions
3) Compliance with Do Not Call (DNC) policies and restrictions
4) Adherence to auto-dialer and automatic dialing recorded message player (ADRMP) regulations
TCPA Enforcement: The FCC and the FTC are responsible for TCPA enforcement. TCPA claims are increasing, in part due to increased diligence in enforcement by these agencies. Individuals, states, and the FCC can initiate claims, with high-visibility class-action suits fueling the rise in TCPA claims. Companies can face steep fines if they are found to be in violation of TCPA regulations.
Tips to Help Contact Centers Comply with TCPA Requirements: The best approach to reduce the risk of litigation and fines resulting from TCPA violations is to first gain a thorough understanding of its requirements. Next, develop and issue written policies and procedures in order to ensure that all business operations and practices are fully compliant. Current TCPA requirements apply to landlines, cell numbers, faxes, and text (SMS) messages. Here are some suggestions to help companies adhere to TCPA requirements:
- Draft DNC list policy and procedures.
- Keep the DNC list current, and ensure that there is an automated process to “scrub” all outbound calling lists.
- Honor the National Do Not Call Registry; set up audit logs and documentation to prove adherence.
- Review dialers and notification solutions (“robocallers”) to ensure they comply with the TCPA.
- Do not use automated dialing technology of any kind when calling cell phones.
- Implement TCPA-compliance training programs for all customer-facing employees.
- Set up a formal, documented process to obtain written permission from anyone with whom you want to conduct business.
- Provide an easy mechanism to allow customers or prospects to opt out of future communications.
- Require all third-party vendors (outsourcers) to be in compliance with TCPA requirements; using a non-compliant vendor is an unacceptable risk.
- Establish a troubleshooting procedure so that employees have a place or person to go to for help when they are in doubt about a TCPA-related matter.
Final Thoughts: Too many companies are ignoring TCPA, believing they won’t be caught. This is a mistake, as the government is encouraging consumers to report consumer abuse. If you’re abusing the regulations, you are at risk. All companies must gain a complete understanding of the requirements and follow the law.
Donna Fluss is the president of DMG Consulting and author of The Real Time Contact Center. To see the complete TCPA Guide, go to www.dmgconsult.com.
[DMG Consulting LLC provides technical and operational guidance. The materials and recommendations contained herein are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We urge you to discuss your particular situation with your legal counsel before taking any action.]
[From Connection Magazine – November 2013]