Like many other industries, businesses with telemarketing operations must adhere to several federal and state laws and regulations. These regulations are strictly enforced to protect consumers against complicit activities.However, a severe lack of resources to help call center operations remain compliant has resulted in major frustrations to consumers and has costed businesses thousands of dollars worth of legal penalties, and in some instances resulting in going out of business entirely .
While the consequences of operating noncompliant telemarketing campaigns were blurred and inconsistently mandated in the past, today’s economic infrastructure has made it very clear that compliance, specifically the Federal and National Do Not Call “DNC” List regulations (implemented by the Federal Trade Commission “FTC”) is everything for your call center to remain operational. On June 6th, 2017 Call centers nationwide were exposed to just how severe the consequences of noncompliant operations were when popular satellite cable provider, Dish Network, was fined $280 million by the Federal Trade Commision “FTC.” This does not include the various legal fees that Dish Network also had to pay–which would likely cost most businesses tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The company found itself under the microscope of the FTC by violating its rules and regulations since 2009. In this specific case, Dish was frequently calling potential customers listed on the federal DNC registry–which was brought to the attention of the FTC from numerous DNC registrants. Pursued by the U.S department of Justice in 2009, the case was finally settled on June 6, 2017 after five grueling weeks of trial. The trial held in the Central District of Illinois, was ruled by Judge Sue Myerscough. Myerscough, found that conglomerate Dish Network was in fact guilty of violating people’s privacy, citing that the company knowingly broke the law in doing-so.
The lasting affect of this case
Most importantly for call centers, Myerscough found that Dish was responsible for their third-party call centers’ misconduct. Placing all the liability of the telemarketing violations onto Dish Network, rather than on their third party vendors. "Dish's reckless decision to use anyone with a call center without any vetting or meaningful supervision demonstrates a disregard for the consuming public," Myerscough wrote in a 475-page opinion.
Overall, the court found that Dish was responsible for more than 57 million calls that violated telemarketing rules. While, your call center might not handle that level of high volume calling – a warning stated by acting FTC chief Maureen Ohlhausen to all call center operations should have every business re-evaluating and assessing their level of compliance today; “The outcome of this case shows companies will pay a hefty price for violating consumers' privacy with unwanted calls."
Whether you have your own call center or use a BPO, the key takeaway from this case is liability; as Dish Network will find itself paying off the fines for the violations of their third party call centers. No matter the type of call center you run, your business will be found liable if it fails to be compliant. In Dish’s official appeal letter they stated the violations made by their third-party call centers were made unbeknownst to the company , "Dish is being held responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by independent third-parties, including in circumstances where such third-parties intentionally hid their telemarketing efforts from Dish."
What does call center compliance look like in 2017?
The Telephone Consumer Protection act, otherwise known as the TCPA, is the regulating document that the FTC follows in mandating sanctions and fines onto non compliant call centers. The document was put into order by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 in an attempt to protect american citizens privacy from unsolicited telemarketing phone calls.
The document placed the following restrictions onto call centers that are still active in 2017:
- Companies must honor the National DNC.
- DNC list must be honored for five years.
- All companies are to maintain a DNC list (“do-not-call list”) of those who request not to be called.
- Residences cannot be called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Companies must provide their name and the name of the company for whom they are calling.
- Artificial agent and automated recorded calls are prohibited.
- Companies must provide a telephone number or address of the company for whom they are calling.
The National Law Review, recently issued six best practices for remaining compliant and up to date with the TCPA. They include:
“Review the policies and practices of third party vendors to ensure that they are not sending communications violative of the TCPA;
Either obtain written consent for all ATDS communications, or be sure to carefully delineate between telemarketing and non-telemarketing campaigns, obtaining written consent prior to sending any ATDS communication in connection with the former;
Utilize consent forms that are conspicuous and easily understood, thereby mitigating the risk that the form will be deemed invalid;
Maintain all consent records for at least four years (the statute of limitations period for TCPA claims);
Assess the efficacy of current safeguards against calling reassigned numbers and, if necessary, improve or replace those safeguards; and
Provide consumers user-friendly mechanisms– such as texting “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE” – to opt-out of receiving TCPA-covered communications.”
Clearly, maintaining compliance in 2017 is a lot easier said than done. However, an overall best practice for dealing with the TCPA should be to have an overall layer of trust and transparency for every single one of your outbound calls. These transparent options include giving customers the ability to opt out of your services at all times, whether that be in the form of a DNC addition or an unsubscribe.
What can your call center do to avoid compliance problems?
Whether or not your outbound call center is making the same abundance of calls as Dish Network...it is more clear than ever that compliance is one of the most critical factors that impact the downfall or success of your business. Dish Network barely moved the scale on telemarketing calls, as there were 29 billion calls placed in 2016 alone. However, it only takes ONE call to a DNC number to be viewed as a fineable offense and a violation of the FTC’s rules and regulations.
According to a Today report in 2014, these complaints against telemarketers continue to rise. “In fact, consumer complaints are skyrocketing. In 2010, there were 1.6 million complaints against telemarketers. By 2011, complaints jumped to 2.2 million, and in 2013, 3.7 million.”
Convoso’s call center software is built to help call centers maintain FTC compliance regulations. Adhering to compliance policies has never been so easy. With Convoso, call center managers can finally stop worrying about accidentally violating TCPA regulations and start focusing on what matters most to them...their business productivity and efficiency.
Our cloud based call center software offers a robust set of tools to help call centers simplify compliance management and maintenance. These features include:
- State Call Time Auto-Presets: Every state has different laws that regulate the hours in which a telemarketing or telesales call can be placed. Convoso’s system comes with pre-defined rules for all states that can be easily set to automatically stop calling during the contact’s state or campaign’s specified hours.
- Cell Phone Scrubbing: The TCPA requires call centers operating automatic dialers to get consent from the person being called if they are not on the DNC but have a cell phone number. If you don’t have consent, simply scrub your list against our database to extract cell phone numbers from your call lists.
- DNC List Uploading: Easily upload your list of DNC numbers into your contact database so that any new lists are uploaded onto our system get automatically scraped for contacts on the DNC list and then excluded in all your campaigns.
- Call Recordings and Call Logs: Review calls to ensure your operation is staying compliant. Easily access or get recorded calls sent to you via FTP push or locate a call log to review calls for any issues with compliance.
- Live Call Coaching / Monitoring: Call center managers or operators have the ability to listen, whisper, or barge on their call center agents. Which gives managers an added layer of protection to correct any noncompliant mistakes that an agent makes during the call. Or allow for better call quality analysis by giving live feedback to agents.
Wanting to see these compliance features live? Schedule a free demo of Convoso’s all-in-one call center software and see how your call center can avoid any problems with the FTC.
Do you have questions regarding TCPA compliance regulations and how your business can go about becoming and staying up-to-date? Feel free to email any questions, comments, or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line: “TCPA compliance.” Our knowledgeable staff is here to help you understand both federal and state compliance laws and provide you with internal and external resources and consultation specific to your business needs.
Disclaimer: Convoso, and our affiliates, are not attorneys at law. If your business is under speculation, or under current scrutiny from the FTC, please consult legal counsel.