Use telemarketing at your business? You may need to change your ways.
New Federal Communications Commission rules went into effect this week that ban telemarketers from making prerecorded calls to land-line and mobile phones without the recipient's prior written consent. The new rules also prohibit “robo-calling”—using a computerized autodialer to deliver a prerecorded message—when dialing mobile phones without the owner’s written consent. Now even established customers will have to provide consent before a business can make a prerecorded call to them.
The new rules, which were added to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), may prove to be a double-edged sword for businesses. On one hand, businesses can worry less about dealing with automated calls from telemarketers. Yet the many businesses that do rely on telemarketing to generate new business or engage existing customers will need to be extra cautious with how they do it now.
Companies will have to enlist real people to handle telemarketing or somehow get prior written consent for automated calls and texts, which is likely very difficult to do. Any professional telemarketing firms will also need to follow the new rules or they could get the businesses that hired them in trouble.
New mobile phone apps, such as PrivacyStar, make it easy for mobile phone users to identify and report telemarketers who break the rules to the FTC.
Experts say the new rules are broad and sweeping. For example, FCC loosely defines what constitutes an automatically generated marketing call. "If you are utilizing any type of call center software as part of your telemarketing operations, you may be using an autodialer within the FCC’s definition," David O. Klein and Jonathan Turco of New York-based Klein Moynihan Turco write in a blog post.
Companies that break the new telemarketing rules could also face serious fines or penalties, meaning many will likely discontinue use of pre-recorded calls and automatic dialing altogether. "It has long been a favorite of [lawsuit lawyers because it provides for statutory damages of $500 to $1,500 per violation, which in the aggregate can lead to substantial windfalls for plaintiffs,” according to the National Law Review. “TCPA violations (even innocent ones) can place companies at significant risk and TCPA litigation has skyrocketed as a result."
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