Many companies today are still not getting the message about the dangers of automated calling. The common belief is that automated calls — even illegal ones — can be swept under the rug and forgotten about, so to speak. It seems to be a game for certain organizations as to how many calls can be made without running into any Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations.
The TCPA, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, is a set of rules and regulations that limits how automatic dialing systems, SMS text messages, faxes and prerecorded messages can be used to contact customers.
Here’s the thing, to remember: Haphazardly experimenting with automated, or “robo” calls is a bit like playing with fire. If you anger enough customers, you can rest assured that there will be consequences. Your company may wind up facing a large class action lawsuit. And sometimes, the lawsuit could take place years down the road — years, even, after the people who originally sanctioned the calls have moved onto other organizations.
One marketing agency, for instance, is now in hot water for making automated phone calls on behalf of multiple cruise lines. The company is now facing scrutiny for calls that were made between 2009 and 2014.
As it turns out, a class action suit was filed in 2012 claiming that the company’s calls were in violation of the TCPA. While the company claims individuals offered consent to receive calls, the company that sold contact information to them argues that the data was purchased from a broker.
Just recently, a federal judge offered preliminary approval for a class action settlement. Now, the company—and the major cruise lines it represents—will have to set up a fund of between $7 million and $12.5 million to pay people who received the calls.
To receive compensation, customers simply have to run their number through a database to see if they were contacted during the specific time period of the violation. Customers can receive up to $300 for each call that was received. The maximum payout is $900 per person.
So let this be a lesson:
If you are thinking about engaging in automated calling, you need to be very careful along every step of the way. The TCPA law is very complex, and it’s full of tiny details that you may overlook. So before you make any executive decisions about automated calling initiatives, it’s critical that you run your ideas by a team of legal experts to make sure you are in compliance.
For this reason, it’s very helpful to hire a third party business processing outsourcer offering a team of in-house legal experts. With the help of an in-house legal team, you can eliminate guesswork during outbound marketing campaigns and go to market faster, and with more confidence. Choose to go it alone, and you could face stiff penalties down the road — as well as a tarnished business reputation.