As robocalls continue to make the news and show the call center industry in a less than flattering light, it is time to remind everyone of the basic tenets of outbound call compliance. It is up to the good actors in the industry to shine a light on the bad actors, and in some way make the public understand that not all outbound callers are scam artists. The news media makes little differentiation between legitimate calling operations and fraudsters, making it necessary for call centers to refresh their memories on the basics of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and outbound call compliance. All new call centers should have an orientation to bring everyone up to speed on this legislation.
Outbound Call Compliance Basics
History of the TCPA
First passed in 1991 by the United States Congress, this act was signed into law under the presidency of George H.W. Bush as an amendment to the Communications Act of 1934 which was signed into law by President Franklin D Roosevelt. Communications had changed radically in the 57 years between the two pieces of legislation and have changed far more drastically in the 27 years since the TCPA was first signed. It has been amended over the years – most recently in 2015 - to regulate and limit the use of automatic dialing systems, commercial fax solicitations, prerecorded messages, and text messaging.
You and the TCPA
Let’s look at some of the most pertinent regulations found within the legislation as applied to outbound call centers.
Regulations to Follow
- If using an artificial or prerecorded voice message, provisions of the TCPA require identification and contact information to be contained in the message. The message must contain the company name, for whom the call is being made, and contact information such as an address, telephone number, email address, or fax.
- Outbound calls may not be made without prior consent to residences before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM in the time zone where the residence is sited. For example, if it is 6:30 PM in California and the agent calls a residence in Florida, the agent would be in violation of TCPA.
- In addition to requiring outbound call businesses to honor the National Do Not Call Registry, companies must maintain their own internal DNC list of consumers who have specifically requested not to be called. After requesting not to be called, the company must honor that request for five years.
- Outbound calls to residences may not use prerecorded messages or artificial voices. Additionally, solicitations using automated dialers and artificial voices or prerecorded messages are prohibited to physician’s offices, healthcare facilities, hospitals, eldercare facilities, and even cell phones.
- Outbound call centers may not engage more than one line at a time at any business that has multiple telephone numbers. For instance, when calling trunk line (555) 555–1110 the call facility may not simultaneously dial lines 1111, 1112, 1113, and so on.
- At no time made the calling entity allow its agents to use threats, intimidation, or obscene language. Nor may consumers be continuously or repeatedly called with the intention of annoying, harassing, or abusing the person, their family, or their employees/coworkers.
- Outbound callers must supply the following information when engaging in telemarketing; the purpose of the call and the identity of the seller, the nature of the offer, and that in the event of a price promotion that no purchase or payment is necessary, nor will it increase the chance of winning.
- Outbound callers must disclose the following information when soliciting charitable contributions; that the call is to solicit a donation for charity and the identity of the organization on the whose behalf they are soliciting.
- Prior notification is required to record a telephone call, whether that notification is oral or written and an audible beep must be repeated at regular intervals during the call that is being recorded. Typically, the announcement is made before connecting the agent and simply says that the call may be recorded for quality or regulatory purposes.
- It should be a no-brainer that misrepresentations in order to make a sale or obtain a donation are absolutely, 100% prohibited. Material misrepresentations are viewed in a very dim light by the FTC (who also regulates telemarketers and charitable solicitations via the Telemarketing Sales Rule) and the FCC, and can land a noncompliant company with fines, lawsuits, and other legal boondoggles.
How to Maintain Outbound Call Compliance
Staying in compliance take some elbow grease and effort. First of all, avoiding robocalling software needs to be at the top of the list. Having your agents manually dial the call doesn’t mean that they have to dial all of the numbers it can be dialed simply by pointing and clicking on a number. Set up and maintain an internal Do Not Call list for your company, while at the same time updating your National Do Not Call Registry list. Immediately remove cell phone numbers from call lists, and keep abreast of developing wireless consent laws.
Training, Training, and More Training
Software and technology can only do so much. One on one training of call center agents, managers, and supervisors is key to maintaining outbound call compliance. Enforcement begins not with the government agency, but with the people working in the call center. They need to know not to repeatedly call and harass customers, not to use abusive language, to fully disclose the reason for the call, and to adhere strictly to the truth at all times. There will always be bad apples, but with the proper training program, it is possible to sort them out before they can bring unwelcome issues into the workplace.
Possibly the most important route to compliance is to use an experienced call center software vendor. The best software has automatic updates to maintain TCPA compliance and to make sure that each outgoing call is in full compliance. Talk to ChaseData about how your call center can run smoothly and efficiently, avoiding the financial and legal pitfalls of noncompliance.