Making sure your company is up-to-date on FCC regulations is an important step to becoming a compliant telemarketer, and it’s crucial for avoiding fines and keeping a positive reputation for your business. After receiving thousands of complaints from consumers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tightened its regulations on automated telemarketing calls, which will go into effect on October 16th, 2013.
Telemarketing can be a great marketing tactic, as long as it’s done right. Most people don’t want their family dinner interrupted every night by excessive and unwanted phone calls; however, if you can reach an audience that has already expressed an interest in your products and services, telemarketing could do wonders for your company. It’s a great way to follow-up with existing customers, and it helps expand your business in other sales territories, which you might be unable to do through direct mail marketing or local marketing campaigns. Staying in contact with your customers through telemarketing could lead to improved customer satisfaction.
But how can your company protect itself, and how will you know if you’re in violation of these FCC regulations? Here is a break-down of the changes, and what your business will have to do to remain compliant:
Telemarketers are required to obtain written consent
Previously, the FCC did not require telemarketers to obtain written consent from the recipient of their phone calls, but starting on October 16th, they must obtain consent if they wish to call cell phone numbers with an auto dialer. Companies must also obtain express written consent from consumers before calling them with prerecorded telemarketing “robocalls”, to both residential and wireless phones.
Prior written express consent is defined as a written agreement, containing the telephone number and signature of the person called, that includes a “clear and conspicuous disclosure”. By signing the agreement, the person authorizes telemarketing calls from the caller using an auto dialer or a prerecorded message.
The signature on the consent agreement may be an electronic signature, which can be obtained through e-mail, text message, website form, telephone key press, or voice recording. The agreement must contain a notice that the person is not required to sign the agreement as a condition of purchasing products or services.
You must provide a way to opt-out immediately from these calls
For prerecorded telemarketing calls, there must be an automated opt-out process for the recipients. The option must be announced at the beginning of the call, and must be available throughout the duration of the call. If the recipient does choose to opt-out, the request must be honored and their number must be added to automatically to the company’s do-not-call list.
This rule also remains true for abandoned calls. An abandoned call, according to FCC regulations, is any telemarketing call placed through an auto dialer that is answered by the recipient and not connected to any sort of message within two seconds. Abandoned calls are made by auto dialers when no agent is available or when the recipient is immediately put on hold. Currently, abandoned calls require that a prerecorded message be immediately played when the phone is answered, giving the name of the business the call is from, explaining that the call is for telemarketing purposes, and a telephone number at which the recipient may be added to a do-not-call list. Beginning on October 16th, the prerecorded message must include an automated opt-out mechanism as well.
Rules will also apply to text messaging
In order to remain up-to-date with current mobile marketing practices, these FCC regulations will also apply to text messages. Consumers will have more control over who can text message them, and will have the ability to opt-out of these messages. Before these new rules, text message marketing had very few FCC regulations, and often proved to be a source of frustration to the recipients. Beginning on October 16th, there will be firmer rules regarding SMS marketing.
Since the FCC regulations are approaching quickly, ensure your company is in compliance. It just requires a little more vigilance when it comes to telemarketing, and making sure that you have the consent of your recipients if you’re using an auto dialer or prerecorded message. Reading up on these laws as soon as possible will help your company steer clear of fines, which can be $500 or more per incident, and keep your good reputation intact. If you plan on purchasing a telemarketing list to use with an auto dialer, be sure to verify with your data company that cell phone numbers will be excluded from the list.
This is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. Please speak with a telemarketing attorney to be absolutely certain your telemarketing methods are compliant with the new FCC regulations.
Here at US Data Corporation, we provide data scrubbing services which will allow you to scrub cell phone numbers from your existing telemarketing list if you plan on using auto dialers. If you have any questions about our services, or wish to speak to a representative, please call (818) 444-4590.
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