5 Ways Your Telemarketing Efforts May Be Breaking the Law

Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Telemarketing [ 0 Comments ]

Telemarketing campaigns are still popular marketing techniques: when they’re done in a respectful manner, and in compliance with all relevant laws, they can be very effective.

If your company is involved in telemarketing or considering a telemarketing campaign, it is critical that you stay on the right side of the law, or you could be facing serious legal action. Here are 5 of the most common ways telemarketing campaigns run afoul of the law.

1. Calling Numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry

This is easily the most common mistake committed by telemarketing campaigns. In many cases, it’s a matter of simple oversight that can be corrected quickly by call center software. However, when telemarketing contractors or your own telemarketing professionals repeatedly call numbers on the Do-Not-Call lists, you could find yourself the subject of a lawsuit. Here are some recent lawsuits pertaining to violating Do-Not-Call laws:

  • In August, 2012, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sued five Florida-based companies for engaging in telemarketing practices that violated several state and federal laws, including calling numbers on the Do-Not-Call registry.
  • Also in the summer of 2012, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller sued a telemarketing company for repeatedly calling numbers on Indiana’s Do-Not-Call registry.
  • A 2012 lawsuit brought by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster accused three telemarketing companies of breaking the law by calling Missourians on the state’s Do-Not-Call list.

2. Breaking State Auto-Dialer Laws

Many states have laws limiting the use of automated dialers in telemarketing campaigns. Back in 1992, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which set up the Do-Not-Call registry and also included restrictions on auto-dialers. The FCC implemented new rules on auto-dialing in late 2012 requiring operators of auto-dialing telemarketing firms to register and avoid calling numbers on a list of public safety answering points (PSAPs, which are call centers that answer for fire, police, and other emergency services). The Indiana lawsuit concerning the Do-Not-Call list discussed above also covers more than 540 complaints of telemarketing calls that violate Indiana’s Auto-Dialer Act.

3. Caller ID Spoofing

Sometimes telemarketing firms use caller ID “spoofing” to make it appear as if the call is coming from someone else. Calls may look as if they’re being made from a law enforcement office, an unlisted number, or some generic identifier like “Customer Service.” One telemarketing firm even made calls look as if they were coming from a Dallas television station. Caller ID spoofing is considered telemarketing fraud, and people do report these incidents to the FCC. Consumers also have the option of requesting their telephone provider to place a “trap” that tracks information from incoming phone calls, and increasing numbers of them are willing to do this in order to report this illegal practice.

4. Misleading or Deceptive Practices

Telemarketing firms are not allowed to claim to be someone or something they are not. A 2012 injunction issued in Polk County, Iowa barred an Arizona company from engaging in misleading practices when selling products to Iowans. In this case, the company is alleged to have falsely claimed that the telemarketers were disabled veterans in order to sell high-priced consumer goods, some of the profits of which the company claims went to help disabled veterans. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has also filed a consumer fraud lawsuit in this instance.

5. Not Keeping Up With Changing FCC and FTC Rules

FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules change frequently, and it is up to telemarketing firms to keep abreast of these changes to avoid inadvertently breaking federal telemarketing laws. As just one example, additional “opt-out” requirements recently went into effect, requiring autodialed telemarketing calls to make it easier for consumers to opt out of future calls. New consent requirements for autodialed calls go into effect in October 2013, and new “abandoned call” rules go into effect in November, bringing FCC and FTC rules on telemarketing sales into tighter coordination.

To prepare for the new rules, telemarketing firms are urged to update their call center software to change prerecorded messages to provide for an automated, interactive opt-out procedure at the beginning of the call. When invoked by the consumer, this opt-out practice must automatically add the consumer’s number to the telemarketing firm’s Do-Not-Call list.

Keeping your telemarketing campaign in compliance with all applicable laws can be challenging, but the risks of not doing so are simply too great. Now more than ever, it is critical that businesses that outsource telemarketing services choose providers carefully, to ensure an effective campaign that stays on the right side of the law.

Photo Credit: Alvimann

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