To protect consumers from unwanted autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing calls, referred to as telemarketing robocalls, new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations took effect in October.
These regulations require a consumer’s “prior express written consent” before businesses can make telemarketing robocalls, eliminating the prior exception of an “established business relationship.”
“Businesses will need to modify their consumer contracts or create a separate consumer consent if they want to make these calls to their consumers,” says Ashleigh M. Morales, an associate at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC.
Smart Business spoke with Morales about what the new regulations require.
What calls are considered telemarketing robocalls under the new FCC regulations?
An autodialed call is any call placed using an automatic telephone dialing system that can produce, store and call telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator. If your organization uses any type of call center software as part of a telemarketing campaign — calls offering or marketing products or services to consumers — the regulations most likely will deem it an autodialed call.
The new regulations apply to calls to cell phones as well as to landlines. In addition, the FCC considers a cell phone text message a call under the regulations.
Are any types of calls excluded?
The regulations do not apply to manually dialed calls or calls that do not contain a prerecorded message. The regulations also do not apply to purely informational prerecorded calls, such as calls from nonprofit organizations or for political, emergency or non-commercial purposes, such as those delivering information regarding school closings.
Is any customer base grandfathered in?
The FCC chose to not grandfather consumer consents granted under the old regulations. As a result, businesses and third-party telemarketers may need to re-solicit consents in order to satisfy the new requirements.
The old regulations allowed telemarketing robocalls to be made to consumers with whom there was an established business relationship. The new regulations eliminate this exception.
How can businesses best obtain written consent for calls?
To get prior express written consent, the consent must be signed by the consumer and include a clear and conspicuous disclosure informing the consumer that he or she is:
- Consenting to receive telemarketing messages using an automatic telephone dialing system or a prerecorded voice to the telephone number the consumer provides.
- Not required to sign the agreement regarding consent to telemarketing messages as a condition of purchasing any property, goods or services.
Electronic and digital forms of signature are acceptable provided the business complies with the federal E-Sign Act. In addition to modifying current consumer contracts, companies should obtain new consumers’ written consent to future autodialed or prerecorded calls at the time the consumer signs an agreement with the business. Then, the business must implement procedures to maintain records of the consents and ensure telemarketing robocalls only go to the telephone numbers for which the consumers have consented to receive calls.
What are the penalties for failure to comply?
Failure to comply with the new regulations can result in actual damages as well as statutory damages of at least $500 per call, which can be increased to $1,500 per call. In determining the amount of statutory damages, courts will look at whether the violation was willful. Since telemarketing campaigns generally involve hundreds, if not thousands, of calls, the potential damages could be great. If you have not already done so, contact your legal counsel to ensure you are complying with these new regulations. ●
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC