Have you ever heard a sales pitch on your answering machine and wondered how it got there? Telemarketing messages are notorious in the eyes of the public, often seen as annoyances, especially if the person who received it never signed up for it in the first place. In response to this, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was born.
First passed in 1991 by former President George H. W. Bush, the TCPA was put into effect for the purpose of restricting telemarketing, or telephone solicitations. This act mainly addresses automatic dialing systems, “robocalls,” pre-recorded voice messages, and other artificial messages. The hope of the TCPA is not to take revenue away from businesses, but to limit and regulate these communications for the sake of consumer privacy. After all, no one appreciates an unsolicited sales call before or after working hours, or when they’re trying to spend some time with their family.
The TCPA Rules
So what are the parameters of the TCPA? Unless the consumer has given express consent beforehand, corporations or businesses cannot call residential homes before the hours of 8am or after 9pm local time. This act not only applies to calling, but to fax messages and text messages (SMS) as well.
The TCPA requires that companies keep something called a “Do Not Call” list. If a consumer requests to be on this list, they cannot be contacted for sales purposes. “Do Not Call” or DNC, must always be honored by the organization and its employees. The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate this list, but every organization must manage their own. All organizations must have a prepared written policy so that if a consumer requests it, they can read the guidelines on their own.
The TCPA Exceptions
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act still allows for businesses to communicate with their clients. If you would like to leave a pre recorded message, all you have to do is meet the following criteria to stay within the boundaries of the TCPA rules:
On the message, you say the name of the organization or entity calling, and which individual is being contacted.
List a phone number where the organization can be reached. Keep in mind that this number must be different than the one associated with the pre recorded message player.
State the main purpose or reason for the call. The purpose, of course, should not be telemarketing.
“Telemarketing” refers to a message given for commercial purposes, the purpose of investment or rental properties, or selling goods and services. As long as the pre recorded calls do not contain telemarketing messages, your organization should be safe. If someone chooses to “opt in” to telemarketing messages, then consent must be given in the form of a written message, electronic form, or signature.
Another restriction applies to emergency lines. Companies are prohibited from using automated equipment to an emergency line, such as 911, poison control centers, fire stations, physicians’ offices, or law enforcement agencies.
Fortunately, many businesses are not impacted by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, especially if you must leave informational messages with your audience. This includes airlines announcing flight changes or cancellations. Calls for the purpose of debt collection also do not count as telemarketing calls. Again, if there’s no sale involved, then there’s no violation.
What Happens in Case of a Violation?
When organizations are unsure about the rules of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, they risk some very hefty fines and fees. A violation of the TCPA can result in a consumer suing for $500 or up to $1500 on each offense. If any revenue is lost because of the violation(s), then the consumer may sue for that amount as well.
Even the largest agencies are at risk. For instance, did you know that Resort Marketing Group, who represents Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, violated the TCPA by spamming thousands with recorded calls without their consent? They advertised cruises by leaving unwanted messages on consumers’ phones. Now, as a result, any individuals who were called during that time have the ability to be compensated and receive financial gain.
How to Comply with the TCPA?
Companies with call centers and telemarketing capabilities should not be on the wrong side of the law. It’s a very serious issue. Business owners must adjust their operations to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act if they have not done so already. If they don’t, they may face some very expensive legal fees later on, just like Resort Marketing Group.
Written procedures, proper training, and regularly updated Do Not Call lists are all factors that ensure you remain free of fines. Businesses can also utilize technology to organize consent information from customers. Keep your teams vigilant about your communications processes both internally and with third party marketing partners so that there are no big issues down the line.
If you want to leave an informational message with a customer, it should remain neutral in terms of content. This means that anything you say should be free of ads, sales, or promotions. If you’re unsure how to word a message, then pre-written scripts could be a great tool for you. Give these scripts to employees and call centers so that every team member is following the right instructions.
Analytics software is another way to keep in line with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulations, such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. These analytics help businesses understand how to provide the most optimal and consistent experience for their customers.
Your Resource For TCPA Compliance
Global Call Forwarding is your resource for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. We have local and toll free phone numbers for you to use in over 140 different countries. Our state of the art network offers features such as call recording, call transfer, SMS to email, local ringback tones, and more. For more information about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, we can answer your questions and concerns. It’s time to invest in an industry-leading service for better quality communications. Contact our team today.