An Interview with Dean Garfinkel
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a decade since the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry was established. In fact, on June 27, 2013, it will be ten years exactly. The FTC has been busy fulfilling all those online and IVR requests. In the first year alone, 62 million phone numbers were added to the National DNC Registry. Today the list includes more than 200 million phone numbers.
Coinciding with this, the USA DNC Regulatory Guide also celebrates its tenth anniversary. Created in March of 2003, it is touted as the “industry bible” for compliance officers and operations management alike. The online guide was developed by Dean Garfinkel. As the tenth anniversary of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule’s Federal DNC list implementation approaches, Dean shares his thoughts on call center regulatory compliance and best practices.
Connections Magazine: You’ve become a highly recognized leader in Do Not Call compliance. Take our readers back in time. How did it begin?
Dean: Florida started everything. The Florida Department of Agriculture created the first Do Not Call list in the country. It amassed 24,000 registrants. Three other states had the same idea.
In late 2001, a company I founded, Call Compliance Inc., got one of twenty-one coveted invitations to a seat at the table with the FTC as they explored options around the creation of a National DNC Registry. I was there on day one. I was asked to participate in the discussion because, as the inventor of a telephone carrier-based Do Not Call solution called TeleBlock, we were one of the few companies to enter this new cottage industry, which is now known as DNC compliance.
I had many customers who relied on our DNC solution to ensure compliance with the then twenty-seven states that had their own Do Not Call lists. We hired an in-house counsel just to keep us up-to-date with all the new regulations. Technological solutions are great, but we knew we had to stay on top of these new regulations in order for our technology to keep our clients 100 percent compliant. New rules were hitting our industry from every direction. Politicians were being elected on the sole promise to stop telemarketing calls at the dinner table. Both the FTC and FCC agreed that they each needed their own aligned set of rules to ensure coverage of all businesses nationally, as the FTC and FCC have different jurisdiction over different businesses. In concept there would be one registry, one set of regulations.
The FTC and FCC got their way, and we ended up with a National DNC Registry. Of course, neither could agree on the rules they promulgated, so we ended up with two new sets of rules. To make matters worse, it became clear that the federal government was not declaring jurisdiction over the myriad of state regulations on DNC. To this day the FCC remains silent on this issue.
Connections Magazine: Yes, it certainly made compliance much more complicated for anyone conducting telemarketing – both sellers and telemarketing service bureaus. What was your solution for simplifying the maze of DNC and telemarketing regulations?
Dean: With thirty-four states with different telemarketing laws and two federal agencies regulating telemarketing, complexity took on a whole new meaning. Companies quickly responded by creating a new position: compliance officer. Not only did they have to keep up with these new laws in real time, but they also had to create and integrate new processes to keep their companies compliant. To make matters even more difficult, the newly minted compliance officers were besieged with Civil Investigative Demands, subpoenas, and the like.
We realized we had what everyone needed. We had been tracking and summarizing the FTC, FCC, and all of the State DNC laws. We built an internal system so we could provide guidance to our customers. I decided an online tool that could be updated in near real time by expert legal counsel and provide time-sensitive alerts to its subscribers would be a much better resource. We developed a simple and intuitive way to present an extremely complex set of regulations. In March 2003 the DNC Regulatory Guide was launched. Only after Canada launched a DNC registry of its own did we update the name to USA DNC Regulatory Guide to make room for our Canadian DNC Regulatory Guide (which has been reviewed by the Canadian regulatory agency).
Ten years of updates and the adjusting of summary definitions based on actual consent decrees make the USA DNC Regulatory Guide the best of its kind. Some of the biggest brands, law firms, and Attorneys General offices use the USA DNC Regulatory Guide as their go-to resource, and they count on receiving time-sensitive alerts to subscribers whenever a regulatory body changes a law or regulation. I am proud to be a part of this product and this ten-year milestone.
Connection Magazine: Thinking back, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the ten years since the FTC implemented the national Do Not Call list?
Dean: Calling has become strategic. Companies can no longer load large files and dial for dollars. The costs and the risks are too high.
Connections Magazine: The National DNC Registry now contains more than 200 million phone numbers. What is your biggest concern today as it relates to the size of the DNC list?
Dean: My biggest concern is the migration of landlines to wireless. When the DNC list was created, this rapid migration wasn’t accounted for. No one expected their twelve-year-olds to have PDAs with faster Internet speeds than DSL. State after state is modifying its laws to define TXT as a call under their existing DNC rules. As landlines become a thing of the past, we will end up with no options to communicate with via phone.
Connections Magazine: In your opinion, what’s the next big thing on the horizon?
Dean: The biggest challenge is that we all face rapid changes in technology. Technology is changing more rapidly than regulators can keep up with. Also, consumer preference management needs to be a priority. But again, here we need the regulators to buy in to this, not just those in the industry. The reality is that businesses have to be able to talk to their customers.
I’ll give you an example. This weekend I needed to purchase a new refrigerator. I contacted a local appliance store, and we called back and forth six times on my wireless phone number to confirm the purchase and delivery. Not once did the store clerk ask for express written permission to call me. In the future, with the set of rules we’re dealing with, that transaction would have been very difficult.
Connections Magazine: What are the top ten compliance problems you see in the industry?
Dean: Here is my top ten list:
1) Lack of a clear customer contact strategy: different parts of an organization contacting customers without a coordinated plan, causing customer frustration and leading to more DNC requests and complaints
2) Lack of preference management
3) Do Not Call failures
4) Lack of understanding regarding proper consent for calling wireless numbers
5) Caller ID failures: failure to properly answer consumer callbacks, creating extreme frustration and complaints
6) Abandoned call rates exceeding 3 percent
7) Abandoned call messages that are not compliant with the Amended Telephone Consumer Protection Act (FCC)
8) Inadequate employee training
9) Lack of compliance monitoring and testing: Processes get broken and companies don’t realize a problem exists until many complaints have been filed against the company.
10) Lack of time: Compliance management is burdensome and time-consuming, and because of this, is often pushed to the back burner behind urgent operational issues.
Dean Garfinkel is chief operating officer of Quality Contact Solutions and can be reached at email@example.com.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2013]