The purpose of this page is to provide background information on current FCC and FTC regulations. It is not legal advice, and should not be considered a replacement for the services of a competent attorney. To learn what steps your organization must take to adhere to all regulatory guidelines, please consult with your company’s legal counsel and/or compliance officer.
The teleservices industry; particularly outbound consumer sales or telemarketing activities has seen rapid change in the past several years. Adhering to new and evolving Do Not Call (DNC) laws can be a time-consuming, confusing, and costly process. The overview below is designed to provide a clearer understanding of the latest regulations, and what steps your firm can take to achieve and maintain compliance.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are the two US government agencies responsible for creating and enforcing all telemarketing and teleservices laws. Some industries, such as financial services, are subject to more stringent regulations defined by other agencies. Additionally, local laws that apply to call center activities vary from state to state.
The FCC has jurisdiction over all phone calls placed from or terminated within the US. The FTC has jurisdiction over most commerce, except for certain regulated industries, like financial services. These agencies have enacted almost identical rules that establish a DNC list. These laws also govern the use of predictive dialers, as well as abandoned calls. The FTC rules also govern advertisements, disclosures, and related communications made via broadcast fax, e-mail, and mail.
The National DNC List
On June 27, 2003, the FTC began permitting consumers to enroll in a national DNC List via a Web site or toll-free number. As of December, 2003 there were 55 million registrants (including those on state DNC lists that were incorporated into the national list). More than 63 million consumers were registered by the end of June 2004. Enrollment in the registry is for a term of five years and must be renewed in order to remain active.
The national DNC list is available for sale to telemarketers, who are required by law to purchase the list and remove all included telephone numbers from their own databases at least once every 31 days. Companies who outsource their call center operations must have their own subscription to the list, with a separate fee required for each company using the list.
The contract to build and administer the national Do-Not-Call Registry initially went to AT&T. However, on October 1, 2007, a new contractor began managing the DNC list.
The national DNC list is governed in part through the FTC’s revised Telemarketing Sale Rule (TSR) and the FCC’s revised Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
State DNC Lists and Regulations
Marketers making calls to consumers must also ensure compliance with all state-specific rules. Currently, 35 states have created, or are in the process of creating, their own DNC lists that govern calls to consumers within state borders. Numerous states also have telemarketing regulations regarding the registration of firms, that prohibit the blocking of Caller ID data, and that outlaw the use of rebuttals when a consumer states that they are not interested. Additionally, most states have eavesdropping statutes that require one party (or in some cases, all parties) to consent before calls are monitored or recorded.
Finally, a growing number of states have laws requiring registration of those who seek contributions on behalf of charities, while a few states require only the charity to register, but not the third-parties who work for them.
DMA’s DNC List
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has maintained a DNC list since 1985. Extensive information may be found on the organization’s Web site.
Court challenges have been completed, and the regulations have been upheld. The rules are in effect, they are being enforced, and compliance is required. Large monetary fines and penalties, as well as bad publicity and damage to reputation, can result from non-compliance.
Politicians and Charities. These are the two most notable exemptions from DNC rules. Politicians are exempt from nearly all telemarketing regulations because lawmakers consider telemarketing to be free speech when it involves politics. Charities also enjoy several exemptions. However, third-party teleservices firms that place calls on behalf of a charity are subject to DNC laws, with violations punishable by a fine of up to $11,000.
Regulated Business Sectors. Telephone companies, airlines, and financial institutions are not subject to FTC laws, they are still governed by DNC and abandoned call requirements, because they are still within the FCC’s jurisdiction. The FCC has adopted DNC and predictive dialer rules in harmony with the FTC’s.
Established Business Relationships. Both the FCC and FTC allow calls to people on the DNC list who purchased products or services in the past 18 months, or inquired/applied in the past 3 months, unless the consumer requested not to be contacted. In those cases, contacts should be placed on company-specific DNC lists, which have been required since 1991 by the FCC and 1995 by the FTC.
Establishing a Compliance Checklist
Developing and implementing a compliance checklist can make ongoing adherence to guidelines easier, more efficient, and less expensive.