There have been quite a few scams over the last 40 years that have negatively impacted the relationships between consumers and outbound telemarketing and prospecting companies.
If you are thinking about outsourcing your cold calling, or if you work in an outbound contact center, you understand the need and importance of remaining compliant.
What is Compliance?
Compliance is defined as the act of complying with a command or rule, also known as adhering to requirements, standards, or regulations set forth by a governing party.
Compliance isn’t just about preventing problems and ensuring that everyone is abiding by laws, rules, and regulations. It’s also about the positive impact an ethical compliance program can have on a business or organization, especially in outbound marketing.
In general, compliance in the workplace involves two important areas:
- Regulatory Compliance: the steps an organization takes to comply with relevant external laws, regulations, and guidelines. Neglecting regulatory compliance could mean facing fines, legal action, and the possibility of being shut down.
- Corporate Compliance: the actions and programs an organization sets in place to ensure compliance with internal policies, procedures, and accepted behavior, as well as external regulations.
Organizations without corporate compliance aren’t necessarily breaking laws, but they may have wasteful or even unethical practices. Companies can ensure corporate compliance by creating specific policies or procedures to follow, and making sure everyone adheres to those policies.
Outbound Cold Calling Compliance
Noncompliance in outbound cold calling puts your business at risk of being shut down, bringing lawsuits and heavy fines on violations along with it. All businesses, no matter the industry or size, must adhere to certain laws and regulations as part of operations. We will be focusing on the regulatory compliance laws for outbound telemarketing and outsourced call centers.
Most telephone consumer protection laws target outbound marketers, but there are some instances where the scope of the laws impact inbound marketing. In these cases, the risk of non-compliance is “significantly reduced” because most actions taken by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the State Attorneys General are “prioritized based on consumer complaints”
If you’re making outbound calls to consumers within the United States, these laws apply to you and it is important to remain compliant within their rules, guidelines, and regulations.
The FCC Won’t Let Me Be
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. So, how do they decide what will become the “rule?”
Rulemaking is a process for developing and issuing rules. The rulemaking process can lead to the issuance of a new rule, an amendment to an existing rule, or the repeal of an existing rule. Most FCC rules are adopted by a process known as “notice and comment” rulemaking. Under this process, “the FCC gives the public notice that it is considering adopting or modifying rules on a particular subject and seeks the public’s comment.” The Commission considers all of the comments received in developing final rules.
There are three basic types of rules or regulations. They are:
- Legislative Rules – These rules create legally binding rights and obligations for the agency and the public.
- Non-legislative Rules- These rules contain two subtypes:
Interpretive Rules – They interpret the meaning of statutes or legislative rules that the Commission administers.
Policy Statements- These tell the public how the agency plans to exercise some discretionary power that it has.
- Organizational and Procedural Rules- These rules describe the agency’s structure and the way in which its determinations are made.
The requirements for “notice and comment” generally do not apply to non-legislative, procedural, or organizational rules, which the Commission may issue without notice and comment.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
For over 30 years, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TPCA, has been known as the centerpiece of federal telemarketing, meant to reduce the growing number of telephone marketing calls.
Signed into effect by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and enforced by the FCC, it regulates everything from the numbers and times you can cold call and the technology you use to dial, to identification requirements and whether or not you have consent to call.
According to Contact Center Compliance, in the earlier days of the TPCA, enforcement was done through lawsuits filed in small claims courts. Today. The TPCA, “includes a private right of action, allowing consumers to bring individual lawsuits and class actions,” and allows for uncapped statutory damages. Meaning, penalties are decided on a per violation basis, reaching as high as $500-per-call. Additionally, willful violations may result in trebled damages up to $1,500-per-call, which means you could pay a big price for being noncompliant.
In 2003, the FCC revised its TCPA rules “to establish, in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a national Do-Not-Call registry,” which we will define below. The FCC revised their rules again in 2012, requiring telemarketing companies to:
- Obtain prior express written consent from consumers before robocalling them.
- No longer allow telemarketers to use an “established business relationship” to avoid getting consent from consumers when their home phones.
- Require telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive “opt-out” mechanism during each robocall so consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.
Do Not Call (DNC) List
The Do Not Call Registry, or DNC list was created in 2003 as an additional resource to protect consumers from outbound telemarketing calls. If someone doesn’t want to be called or texted, their name is simply added to the list.
A DNC list can be associated with both state-level telemarketing regulations to individual businesses or internal DNC lists that every company is required to keep. Most B2B are exempt from national DNC laws, but not every state exempts B2B calls under state law. Some jurisdictions require B2B marketers to “register and place a bond before making calls.”
With approximately 100,000 mobile phone numbers reassigned by wireless carriers every day, it is important to run data checks that suppress the numbers on your internal DNC list. As the Contact Center for Compliance says, “Phone numbers may change, but the risk of liability is inevitable.”
The TSR states that it:
(1) requires telemarketers to make specific disclosures of material information
(2) prohibits misrepresentations; sets limits on the times telemarketers may call consumers
(3) prohibits calls to a consumer who has asked not to be called again, and sets payment restrictions for the sale of certain goods and services.”
This legislation, “gives the FTC and state attorneys general law enforcement tools to combat telemarketing fraud, gives consumers added privacy protections, defenses against unscrupulous telemarketers, and helps consumers tell the difference between fraudulent and legitimate telemarketing.”
Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a violation of the DNC provision of the TSR can result in fines of up to $43,280-per-call.
As defined in this Rule, “telemarketing is a plan, program, or campaign to induce the purchase of goods or services or a charitable contribution” involving more than one interstate telephone call. So far, the FTC has amended the TSR in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2015 to better safeguard consumers, as scams became more widespread and new technologies for telecommunications became available.
According to the FTC, there are some types of business, individuals, and activities outside of the FTC’s jurisdiction, and therefore, not covered by the TSR. Certain calls or callers also are “completely or partially exempt from the Rule’s provisions.”
The Benefits of Being Compliant
By committing to compliance, data scrubs can substantially reduce phone numbers that are either fake numbers (litigator numbers) or DNC numbers. Phone numbers that are either litigator numbers or DNC numbers fundamentally are not quality leads by nature. These numbers have requested no calls or are traps for telemarketing companies.
Knowing that all of your contacts and phone numbers are clean and compliant, gives you the ability to create strategies, processes, and relationships that can develop new business directly aligned with company goals. Risk is reduced and the quality of targeted contact lists increases.
This enables sales reps to have more quality conversations, in turn producing more appointments or next steps. Not to mention, when your organization fails to comply, you open yourself up to potential lawsuits and financial liability.
If a cold caller violates any of these rules, you can complain to the firm’s compliance officer and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). If a cold caller uses harassing, abusive sales tactics or lies to you about an investment, you should contact the SEC or the North American Securities Administrators Association to find your state’s securities regulator.