In the wake of tougher sanctions under TCPA legislation, businesses are looking for evermore ways to ensure they adhere to consumer protection laws.
Whether you’re a telemarketer, business owner, or simply want to better understand TCPA regulations, here are 4 simple practices to maintain full TCPA compliance.
Since its inception over a century ago, the telephone has played a central part in many businesses’ day-to-day operations. From the advent of switchboards and the proliferation of robocalls in the 80s to today’s mobile device, equipped with authentication technology and the ability to send voice messages and prerecorded messages, the telephone has kept companies in direct communication with their customer base.
But, as with any innovation in the telecommunications industry, Graham Bell’s invention is not without its own set of rules and regulations. Without prior written consent, TCPA compliance cannot be guaranteed.
What Is TCPA?
Formed in 1991 to address an inundation of aggressive, coercive, and unsolicited calls from telemarketers, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) covers all forms of outbound telephone contact, including cell phones.
Under the Act, all text messages, phone calls, and faxes conducted with a commercial purpose, such as within a call center, are restricted from certain invasive or abusive activities.
A Violation Occurred, What Happens?
Gaining insight into the statute and its regulations is the first step to verify compliance and avoid damaging repercussions, which could include class-action lawsuits brought by consumers and government bodies seeking remuneration.
Are Text Messages a Violation?
Compliance concerns have only been exacerbated by the increase of SMS text messages and SMS marketing. And while they’re highly effective communication tools, they are becoming a burden to businesses, as texting is subject to the same stringent laws as telemarketing.
Do Not Call List
Many of the stipulations are common sense principles all companies already follow. For example:
- No calls to anyone listed in the National Do Not Call Registry;
- No use of autodialers, recordings, or simulated voices to make calls to mobile phones or other recipients where the receiver pays for the call
- No use of autodialers to contact emergency services, such as the police, hospitals, and fire stations.
Likewise, health-related messages or relevant information, like evacuation prompts due to natural disasters, sent phone numbers for safety purposes, are exempt from such litigation.
Some, however, are less obvious. Nevertheless, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act sanctions them, too.
In recent years, complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have steadily risen. So, not only will the following tips ensure you remain fully TCPA compliant, but they’ll also improve the call center experience and proactively mitigate any of your liabilities.
Why Should You Comply?
Needless to say, but no company wants to be beset by litigation or sanctions to limit or even void leads. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to set out a clear and accessible TCPA plan as soon as possible.
Failure to comply can land you in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, repeat offenses cause even more cumbersome laws to be introduced into the legislature, further limiting telemarketing opportunities across all sectors and, in turn, hindering a powerful tool for connecting with prospects.
Staying up-to-date with the latest regulations doesn’t just get the FTC off your back. It embeds consistency and productivity within your business model. Consequently, you’ll avoid time-wasting activities by pinpointing responsive leads that have a real and organic potential for conversion, along with highlighting where you should be channeling your marketing efforts.
Bear in mind that even companies that outsource to third-party vendors may be liable if regulations are violated. Recent class-action lawsuits resulted in upwards of tens of millions being paid out by the defendants simply for failing to obtain prior express written consent.
Few businesses want to endure a lengthy and costly legal process for something that can be easily prevented.
Here are 4 easy-to-follow steps below to help your company avoid penalties of any kind:
The first concern for anyone considering TCPA is consent. Obtaining written consent from your customers is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to ensure TCPA compliance and build trust within your customer base.
When is consent assumed? In two ways:
- When the called party gives their number to the caller;
- When the called party provided their contact number to a creditor.
Usually, consent is given in the form of prior written consent, which should be obtained, obviously, before the call. So, when making a commercial call to a wireless number, business, or customer, using an automated dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, having written consent is necessary. Otherwise, you run the risk of violating several TCPA regulations.
This law specifies that permission must be evidenced by a signed, written agreement stating that the consumer agrees to be contacted by the particular seller. The consent should also include the telephone number to which calls may be placed.
A straightforward method of obtaining written consent is through legal agreements and purchase receipts. On top of this, prior express consent is necessary for text messages, as well.
You may also want to consider telephone keypresses given through an automated phone system. While this may sound like it runs counter to the TCPA’s banning of ATDS, you can still request to send telemarketing messages to callers in your company’s own automated answering system
An even easier solution is to secure consent via voice recording. Still, the safest route, by far, is to opt for irrefutable consent in writing.
Additionally, make sure you have a clear and readily accessible way for your customers to revoke their consent at any time of their choosing. Customers have the right to revoke consent in any reasonable method they deem necessary. It’s also advisable to document any said consent revocation, as a paper trail will minimize your liability.
When it comes to your opt-in and opt-out policy, take a moment and ask yourself:
- Is there an easy method for prospects to unsubscribe?
- Are there any written procedures showing how to clear the contact database?
In the same venue, it’s also beneficial to date and time stamp anyone who has opted out of receiving communication from you.
Please be aware, skip-trace collection of a contact number or collecting a debtor’s number from a third party is not considered express consent, written or otherwise.
And remember: The burden to demonstrate prior express consent rests with the caller, not the receiver.
Record-Keeping and Tracking
Tracking leads to accountability at every level. Monitoring staff not only improves staff performance but also allows you to narrow down the who, what, and why of any infractions that may occur.
Attribute’s first phase is to capture a 360° view of our client’s company and track lead attribution—an invaluable tool in maintaining strict TCPA compliance.
Particularly regarding your next marketing campaign, our messaging Attribution gathers all-encompassing real-time data and allows end-users to see the opt-out rates for specific messages. Therefore, keeping a record of all interactions will have comprehensive analytics to reference should an unfortunate issue arise.
Message frequency to certain phone numbers also has a significant impact, especially if conducted without written permission and especially if they are included on the do not call list.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has outlined some metrics which, under TCPA compliance regulations, can be considered invasive and may even result in call or texting blocking:
- Large bursts of calls or text messages in a short timeframe;
- Low average call duration;
- Low call completion ratios;
- Large volume of complaints;
- Sequential dialing patterns during a voice message;
- Common Caller ID Name (CNAM) values across voice service providers.
While it’s crucial to take note of which actions lead to violations, it would also be prudent to make sure your copy of the National Do Not Call Registry is up-to-date (a monthly check is recommended) and disseminate your own internal registry. Honor the stipulations of these registries for a minimum of five years, after which time you can review and possibly renew the lead.
If you have an established business relationship, contacting your customer on their cell phone is TCPA compliant. If not, particularly if they have chosen the opt-out option, they may be considered marketing purposes, and therefore unsolicited advertisements that are not compliant with TCPA rules.
Training and Strategy
Solidifying your TCPA compliance policy needs to start with your most valuable assets—your personnel. Train your marketing and sales teams, keep them abreast of the latest regulations and implement extensive and detailed policies to be used by all without exceptions.
But learning regulatory best practices is only half of the battle. Before you draft a training manual, here are some examples of TCPA violations that are prohibited:
- Calls made before 8 AM or after 9 PM;
- Calls made to phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry;
- Calls made to parties who choose to opt-out of communications by any other means, such as unsubscribing to a newsletter.
- Calls made on behalf of persons or organizations the caller refuses to name, identify or provide contact information about them.
Keep in mind that these rules apply to telemarketing calls. Different ones might apply to SMS marketing.
Implementing a clear and robust TCPA compliance procedure helps you and your teams avoid the common pitfalls that many businesses run up against.
Some companies have sought to circumvent restrictive laws by using the Trojan Horse of political or charity messaging to cover more subtle forms of telesales and telemarketing. However, this is still subject to TCPA.
Also recommended is that you regularly review any prerecorded scripts and amend your calls-to-action, terms and conditions, and your opt-in and opt-out policy where necessary.
The TCPA may not require this to ensure compliance, but it certainly sets the template for a higher standard of telemarketing. Plus, after successive backlashes from consumers irritated by the lack of clarity in their communications, it’s more vital than ever to be diligent, direct, and transparent. Consequently, freshening up your scripts to comply more closely with TCPA language is extremely useful.
Familiarize your team with the legal obligations from the outset (i.e., during their induction training) and throughout. These training sessions should include the prohibitions against unfair and abusive practices and clearly identify and delineate their responsibilities under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
You can also add a mandatory disclosure clause to your company call center policy, which says that the caller must disclose their name, the company they work for, and the contact details the called party can contact them through.
With a lead attribution software company like Attribute at your disposal, you’ll have 360-degree oversight of your teams with built-in functionality that allows you to integrate your own plug-and-play marketplaces.
You can browse under-performers, high-earners and analyze how each allotted their time on their cell phones. For the most part, it’s the latter that have a better understanding of TCPA compliance.
Modern innovations are helping somewhat with maintaining TCPA compliance in telemarketing, primarily through encouraging express written consent during phone calls via cell phones.
Manual phone calls are a sure-fire way to avoid violations in a call center setting. Simply place your called party into a system by having them manually approve phone numbers presented by the automated system.
We also recommend training your call approval teams to screen for compliance criteria such as time zones, prior express written consent versus verbal consent, and geographical considerations.
Finally, implement a system that uploads caller data to check for pending DNC requests that haven’t yet been approved. These customers haven’t been granted express consent. Therefore, they should be uncontactable!
Autodialer Telephone Dialing System
Autodialer calls and prerecorded messages, whether human or automated, placed through an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) must have written consent before contacting customers.
ADTS includes equipment that can both store and dial telephone numbers through a random or sequential number generator.
Don’t use ATDS calls for cell or mobile phones. Alternatively, opt for a manual dialing system that requires human intervention to place every individual call.
If you currently have an auto dialed campaign in use, it’s not necessary to render your ATDS obsolete, especially if you’ve invested time and money into it. Instead, just obtain written consent.
When using a cloud-based call management system, you can initiate an automated collections phone scrub, which contrasts numbers on the DNC list with ported numbers to ensure they never appear on your outbound call list. Any that could cause a violation are deleted from your records before a call can be made, for which you have not gained express consent.
Where Do I Get Started?
Besides safeguarding your company from potential litigation, TCPA compliance makes good business sense. It improves your reputation and enhances the customer journey.
For example, in the hypercompetitive and ever-growing solar energy field, many companies rely on targeted telemarketing to generate leads for residential and commercial purposes, which are strictly regulated. Even if it’s for informational purposes or validation purposes, prerecorded messages can result in TCPA litigation.
As a sector reliant on its green practices, a PR backlash is hugely unwelcomed and erodes the public’s trust in an industry predicated on its strong ethics.
Due to solar energy’s proliferation in the past decade or so, it has become a target for potential claims under the TCPA compliance guidelines. With no maximum cap on recovery, compensation can quickly catapult into the millions.
How Can We Help?
At Attribution, we’re bridging the gap between marketing and sales. From lead attribution through AI distribution to targeted sales representatives, we offer an end-to-end tracking and compliance solution that avoids litigation in the federal courts.
When combined with our thorough TCPA compliance knowledge, we offer companies and individuals peace of mind that they’re operating in adherence to the law while maximizing lucrative opportunities.
We give a broad yet detailed overview of your operations with comprehensive oversight of multiple streamlined, automated, and flexible platforms. Better still, Attribution AI allows you to fine-tune your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).
The easy interface uses real-time data to highlight your key performers and instill productivity by replicating their success. Let your team see the figures and why it works.
The biggest way Attribute helps is by DNC syncing all of your systems and applications so that you are taking out of your campaign the people who do not want you to contact them.
You maintain TCPA compliance during telemarketing calls while avoiding downtime by minimizing the excessive churn resulting from bad leads. In essence, you land the real deal.
It’s crucial to remember that these laws aren’t designed to stifle innovation but to protect consumer data from unsolicited communications, along with strengthening their existing business relationship with you. As such, telemarketing calls should operate with ethics, clarity, and transparency, and only when the called party has opted in.
Gaining express written consent to opt-in text messages, promotional texts, and telemarketing calls is the safest way to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Staying TCPA compliant can be complex. This how-to guide was designed to be a preliminary starting point. So, by no means is it exhaustive. For more information, look through our TCPA Compliance Checklist of the dos and do nots, and be sure to seek legal advice before drafting an internal policy.
Click here to read about the 5 things to remember about TCPA compliance