Meeting compliance standards Featured

8:00pm EDT October 28, 2006
Anyone who makes or receives telemarketing calls must assure they do business in compliance with state and federal telemarketing regulations.

“In the broad spectrum, that means abiding by laws and regulations set forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA),” says Steve Brubaker, senior vice president at InfoCision Management Corp. in Akron.

“That includes the national Do-Not-Call List. In addition, there are legal requirements dictated by the 50 state legislatures and enforced by state attorneys general. The nature of the client for whom we are making the calls determines the specific regulations with which we must comply. Calls made on behalf of corporate clients are subject to the most scrutiny. Our nonprofit and political clients do receive certain exemptions based on their First Amendment protections.”

Smart Business talked to Brubaker about other factors governing legal compliance process and procedures.

Who is responsible to be sure an enterprise is in compliance?
All telemarketing firms should have a compliance officer to make sure the organization is in line with all federal and state laws. I fill that role at my company. It is my job to work with our attorneys to understand and interpret the laws and regulations for the telemarketing industry as they pertain to our firm, our clients and the types of campaigns they require.

Once you understand the law, you need to create requirements and apply them to your business processes, and ultimately build them into your technical software and into your corporate culture.

Once the plan is in place, how does a firm remain compliant?
To ensure compliance, telemarketing firms must constantly auditing their business and IT processes to search for any potential problems. They should have have a highly trained and experienced compliance staff that monitors all levels of their business, and state and federal regulations. Legal counsel should keep managers updated concerning regulation changes, and the firm should receive regular updates from industry associations like the American Teleservices Association (ATA) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

What is the telemarketing firm’s role in customer compliance?
It should work with clients to ensure that all programs are compliant with the myriad of federal and state regulations. But at the end of the day, it is responsible for compliance. This is what clients expect.

What is the financial cost of compliance?
There is a significant commitment of resources for ensuring compliance. There are ongoing costs for staff and legal expertise, in addition to federal, state and even international fees.

For instance, in order to call into British Columbia, a fee must be paid to the province. I would say that the cost of compliance is whatever it takes to stay compliant and avoid potential lawsuits and negative press. The costs of noncompliance could put your company out of business and have a negative impact on the reputations of your clients.

How do you get stakeholders within an organization to understand and support compliance efforts?
A commitment to compliance must come from the top down. Corporate leadership needs to set a positive example for all employees about how to stay in line with laws and be ethically responsible. If a firm’s CEO does not place a high value on staying compliant, those feelings will trickle down throughout the company, and that firm is headed for disaster.

It is helpful to build compliance into technical applications, which removes some of the ethical dilemmas an employee might face. This creates an environment where employees do not unknowingly commit a violation.

Is there new or emerging technology that will help an enterprise be in compliance?
An ‘application processes interface’ saves a great deal of time in making changes to software when a new or changing law or regulation must be applied to the IT process of a particular telemarketing program. This platform is modular, and is designed to anticipate change and make it as easy as possible to find the code that needs to be updated.

STEVE BRUBAKER is senior vice president - corporate affairs at InfoCision Management Corp., Akron. Reach him at steveb@infocision.com or (330) 668-1400. InfoCision is a privately held teleservice company and a leading provider of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, commercial, religious and political organizations.