February 2007 - Call Compliance News
The ATA is currently set to issue self regulatory standards addressing consumer needs in an attempt to minimize the need for future legislation. The regulatory standards will set the professional guidelines within the call center industry. Self regulatory efforts are almost always better than legislative response to consumer complaints, and I would recommend that, if acceptable, you support these guidelines.
The FTC has issued its list of top consumer complaints from 2006. “Do-not-call” list complaints were not in the top five. Identity theft complaints constituted more than one third of the total number of complaints.
The FTC has reiterated that consumers should not be concerned that their cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketers at any time in the future. Cell phone numbers may not be called using predictive dialers without express consent.
A recent MSNBC story, http://redtape.msnbc.com/2007/02/suing_telemarke.html, publicized the availability of the TCPA to obtain judgments against telemarketers in small claims court. The article mentions other websites which walk potential plaintiffs through TCPA claims. You should be aware, however, that not every professional plaintiff brings valid claims appropriate for settlement. If you do settle every claim, valid or not, you may become a target for future actions. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further.
A bill has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives which would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to specifically prohibit deceptive caller ID information. Entities would still be permitted to block caller ID transmission, but deceptive caller ID would specifically be banned and the FCC would be directed to promulgate regulations implementing that prohibition.
A bill has been proposed in Colorado (HB 1303) which would create a Colorado junk mail opt-out list, with exemptions for charitable nonprofit organizations, political organizations, and businesses with which the recipient of the mail has an established business relationship. Currently, there is no similar state or federal statute in existence; although a federal postal law allows consumers to opt-out of unsolicited adult mailings.
A bill has been proposed in the Connecticut Senate (SB 1232) which would include text messages within the definition of marketing or sales solicitations subject to the state “do-not-call” list law.
A hearing has been scheduled before an appellate court in Florida with regard to whether past purchasers fall within the established business relationship exemption to the Florida “do-not-call” list. The Florida Department of Consumer Protection has argued that a past purchase (e.g. at a department store) does not constitute an established business relationship for the purposes of Florida law. This argument belies the text of the law which includes “past” relationships, but the Department of Consumer Protection did prevail at the trial level.
A bill has been proposed in the Kansas Senate (SB 195) which would include political telephone calls which do not disclose who paid for the call in the state’s definition of “corrupt political advertising”.
A bill has been proposed in the Minnesota House of Representatives (HB 116) which would require telemarketing sales or service call centers to disclose their physical location upon request and to request service from a person located in the United States if desired.
A bill has been proposed in the Minnesota Senate (SB 833) which would require that third party services billed on telephone bills include a contact number for the third party.
A host of bills have been filed which would bar prerecorded political calls to persons on the state “do-not-call” list. Apparently, these bills have bipartisan support in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. The FTC has requested a permanent injunction from the United States District Court against an entity which allegedly deceptively obtained and sold consumers’ confidential phone records without knowledge or consent. By this action, the FTC continues to aggressively investigate lead generation and sales activities. Lead generators are just as likely to be investigated for Telemarketing Sales Rule violations, for example, as the telemarketers themselves.
A bill has been proposed in the New York Senate (SB 2852) which would impose a curfew between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 and 10:00 a.m.
A federal judge in North Carolina has found that a Texas satellite television company violated the TCPA by calling hospital telephone lines with prerecorded telemarketing messages. The TCPA prohibits all autodialed, prerecorded and predictive dialed calls to public safety numbers and you should implement procedures to avoid calling these numbers, even if your calls are legal to other consumers or residences. U.S
Congressman John Doolittle (R) has introduced legislation to include political prerecorded calls on the national “do-not-call” list. Similar legislation has been proposed in many states.
A Federal Court has ruled that a state representative violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending more than 20,000 prerecorded messages last year to Oklahoma citizens. The judge ruled that the prerecorded message did not disclose the name and telephone number of the business of the individual initiating the call. The TCPA states that all calls must disclose the name of the caller and a telephone number which can be used to make a “do-not-call” request during normal business hours. The TCPA does not contain exceptions for any sorts of prerecorded calls, even non-solicitation, information, or political calls.
A bill has been proposed in the Texas Senate (SB 599) which would require that telephone calls supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot issue disclose who paid for the message or who authorized the call.