Contact Centers Can’t Afford Noncompliance

In a recent decision, the Federal Trade Commission raised the civil penalty for certain telemarketing sales law violations from $16,000 to $40,000 per instance, including fines for contacting individuals on Do-Not-Call (DNC) lists.

The FTC says the fee was more than doubled to adjust for inflation. The fine had been $16,000 since February of 2009; earlier it had been $11,000.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) was adopted by the FTC to protect consumers against deceptive acts or practices by telemarketers. As such, it restricts the making of telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing (robocalling) systems, and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. The rules apply to common carriers as well as to other marketers.

If your business uses telemarketing (a plan, program or campaign to induce the purchase of goods or services or a charitable contribution involving more than one interstate telephone call), you’ll want to read up on the do’s and don’ts of the TSR if paying $40,000 a pop per violation wouldn’t sit well with your accountants.

Don’ts—Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Calling numbers on the National DNC Registry without an exemption
  • Failing to suppress against the National DNC Registry once an established business relationship has expired
  • Neglecting to suppress against the business’s internal DNC list at the required minimum frequency
  • Failing to honor DNC requests or a DNC policy request within 30 days
  • Neglecting to train agents to make all TSR-required disclosures at the beginning of every call
  • Placing calls outside of the allowable timeframe of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Failing to display accurate caller identification information (caller’s name and telephone number)
  • Abandoning more than 3 percent of calls per campaign per month

Do’s—Follow these best practices to comply with TSR:

  • Make certain prompt disclosures in every outbound and inbound call, including information a consumer would need to make an informed decision, before the consumer pays for the goods or services offered.
  • Promptly disclose four items of information before any sales pitch is given: seller’s identity; purpose of the call (to sell goods of services); the nature of the goods/services; in the case of a prize promotion, that no purchase or payment is required to participate or win.
  • Get express verifiable authorization if accepting payment by methods other than credit or debit card.
  • Maintain records for 24 months.
  • Comply with entity-specific DNC requirements.
  • Include a prompt keypress or voice-activated opt-out mechanism in any prerecorded message call on behalf of a non-profit organization to a member of, or previous donor to, the non-profit.

Are You Compliant with the New FCC Rules?

On Thursday June 18th, the FCC approved a TCPA Declaratory Ruling that is meant to “protect consumers from unwanted robocalls and texts.” The ruling was approved by a vote of 3-2 and the official text was released, and became effective, on Friday July 10th.

So, what does this new policy mean moving forward?

An instrumental part of providing the utmost quality of customer care in the contact center space is compliance with privacy restrictions implemented by governing regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

InfoCision has reviewed internal policies and procedures to ensure full compliance with the Ruling and have implemented the most conservative standard to protect our clients, our company and our employees. We also encourage all organizations to make sure any third party vendors they utilize are compliant.

As an industry leading expert in compliance, we are providing a brief summary of the FCC Ruling for your reference.

ATDS (Automatic Telephone Dialing System)                                   ATDS is defined as any device or equipment which has the current or potential capacity with software modifications or additions to store or produce telephone numbers to be dialed randomly or sequentially without human intervention.  The hardware determines whether the equipment is an ATDS or not, i.e. if the hardware configuration cannot dial without human intervention without additional hardware, it is not an ATDS. The definition also includes calls to a set list of numbers using an ATDS.

The TCPA’s express consent requirements for calls to cell phones apply if the calls are made using an ATDS or prerecorded message.

It’s critical when contacting a cell phone number to use a manual dial solution which meets the specific terms required by the FCC.

Re-Assigned Numbers, Called Party and Wrong Number Calls         The TCPA exempts calls made to cell phones using an ATDS or prerecorded message if the “called party” provided prior express (written) consent for such calls.  The FCC has expanded the determination for who the called party is, in situations where the caller intends to call one person but unintentionally reaches another.  This situation could occur primarily when a number has been reassigned without the caller’s knowledge.  According to the FCC, businesses will have only one opportunity to call a reassigned number.

Text Messages                                                                                       Text messages are defined as a call to a mobile number and subject to TCPA consent and dialing requirements.

Remaining compliant is imperative for the respect and safety of your consumers as well as protecting an organization from significant monetary liabilities.

Click here to read more about regulatory compliance standards in the contact center space.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Don’t take risks when it comes to consumer data security and regulatory compliance

I am pleased to share with you that InfoCision just received word that we have once again been certified as a Level 1 Payment Card Industry (PCI) Service Provider and also a Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO).

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks. However, when it comes to consumer data security and regulatory compliance, taking risks should never be an option. When selecting a contact center to work with it is important to consider an organization’s track record and reputation for upholding the highest standards when it comes to the critical matters of security and compliance.

Level 1 PCI Service Provider

We understand that our clients are entrusting us with important consumer information and they deserve full confidence that their customer’s credit card information will be handled with extreme care and security.

Level 1 is the highest a company can achieve and it demonstrates our adherence to the PCI Data Security Standard requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures. In our call center operations, it means that we make sure your customers’ payment card data is being kept safe throughout every transaction and protected against data breaches.

PACE-SRO

Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting all state and federal requirements. As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance so we have invested in technology and a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give you peace of mind in all aspects of campaign management.

InfoCision first received PACE-SRO certification in 2009, becoming only the second company world-wide to achieve this honor. This is an important distinction because it validates that we are following industry best practices while delivering a standard of quality expected by customers. To achieve this, we undergo an annual assessment conducted by an external audit that determines which companies are in compliance with regulations imposed by the FTC.

If you have any questions about data security or regulatory compliance please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer.

 

Is your company prepared for the new TCPA revisions rolling out October 16th?

How to make sure you and your third party vendors are compliant

image_16_politicalEarlier this year several major companies were hit with significant fines for violating the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) law. Papa John’s agreed to pay a staggering $16.5 million dollars as part of a settlement. TCPA litigation has been increasing in recent years and the new TCPA revisions going into effect on October 16 are likely to fuel more litigious activity. As we all get ready for October 16, it’s important to keep in mind the significant monetary liabilities businesses can face under the TCPA, including liability for actions of third-party marketing partners.

ATDS defined, or is it?

Calls made without the use of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS), or a prerecorded message are not subject to the TCPA’s consent requirements; however, there has been some uncertainty in the industry regarding what constitutes an ATDS. The term ATDS is defined as “equipment which has the capacity– (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.”  A large portion of the uncertainty stems from the term “capacity” in this definition. The concern has been that courts might interpret the term capacity so broadly that equipment would constitute an ATDS if it could be altered or modified in a manner that would allow it to autodial telephone numbers (even if it did not currently have the ability to do so).

We are beginning to see inconsistency in the case law related to TCPA regulations on cell phones. Of course, InfoCision will maintain the most conservative approach for our clients, as we have a manual dial solution which does not have the capacity to dial predictively.

A recent decision issued by the Northern District of Alabama, in Hunt v. 21st Mortgage Corp., held that a system must have the present capacity, at the time the calls were made, to operate as an autodialer for it to be an ATDS.  According to the Court, equipment is not an ATDS if “substantial modification or alteration” is required for the system to have such capacity. This is an important decision for companies that plan to make calls to cell phones using non-ATDS equipment, and it will be interesting to see whether other courts will adopt a similar interpretation when considering this issue in future cases.

What you need to know about obtaining consent 

As an industry leader and expert in compliance, we have prepared useful tips and sample consent templates to help organizations get ready for this new requirement. To learn more about the FCC TCPA requirement and to access the tips and sample consent templates click here.

InfoCision has already made all necessary adjustments and we encourage all organizations to review how they obtain cell phone numbers to be used for phone or for text solicitation. We also encourage all organizations to make sure any third party vendors they utilize are compliant.

If you have found this information helpful, please leave a comment or question if you want to discuss further.

Also, we will be at DMA2013 in Chicago from October 13 through October 15. Stop by booth #1019 and say hi!

Opt-out confirmation text messages deemed legal by the FCC

text messagesLast week, the FCC issued a ruling stating that it is legal to send a one-time text message to confirm that someone has opted out of receiving future text messages from a specific organization.  This had been an issue of great interest within the direct marketing industry, as mobile marketing is becoming more and more popular as a meaningful way of contacting customers.

The issue stemmed from a case last year where a consumer sued a direct marketing organization that had sent a follow-up text to confirm his opt-out, and they settled out of court rather than fighting it, setting a bad precedent for the industry.

I applaud the FCC for a very reasonable and responsible decision in allowing follow-up messages to be utilized to confirm opt-out requests for consumers.  When considering that the consumers being contacted had expressly opted in to receiving the messages at some point in the recent past, and were receiving text messages from the organization in a completely legal way, it was a bit frightening that the direct marketer could face disciplinary measures for confirming opt-outs.  Frankly, opt-out confirmation messages are a valuable service that the direct marketing organization is providing to the consumer so that they can be 100% sure that their opt-out request has been received.  To penalize a direct marketer for providing this service would – simply put – be senseless.

To read more on this, there is a good article in AdWeek.

In addition, you can get more information on the ruling by visiting the blog of Michele Shuster of MacMurray, Peterson and Shuster, industry legal experts.

Papa John’s faces lawsuit for mobile marketing compliance violations

mobile marketing complianceLately it seems that as every week that goes by, we hear of a company facing legal or regulatory action for failing to adhere to the strict compliance guidelines that govern the direct marketing industry.  This week a rather unlikely name is in the news for mobile marketing compliance violations:  Papa John’s Pizza.

As reported in several publications, Papa John’s is the subject of a class action lawsuit for sending numerous text messages to its customers without getting prior express verifiable consent.  Papa John’s was using a third party company to send out the text messages, and it appears they may not have been intricately aware of that company’s methods.  While Papa John’s denies fault in the case, many are estimating this could be the largest payout ever for such a violation, as more than 500,000 illegal text messages were sent.

Know your direct marketing partner

So what can companies that utilize direct marketing services take away from this case?  First, it is imperative to obtain express verifiable consent before contacting any consumer on their mobile device.  But since that is clearly part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, direct marketing providers should be keenly aware of that fact.

The bigger takeaway is just how important it is to truly know your direct marketing services provider.  With the myriad of laws and regulations that govern the industry, no company or organization should allow someone to send out marketing messages on their behalf without total faith that they are crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” when it comes to regulatory compliance, as well as operating in a manner that is ethical to consumers.  If they are not, it can create significant liability for a company, even one as large and well-known as Papa John’s; and it can level mountains of good will built over many years.

So before signing on with a direct marketing partner, make sure you do your homework and verify that they not only understand the regulatory environment of the industry, but have systems in place to ensure that all campaigns maintain strict compliance.

TCPA Legal Action Thrown Out

Recently, I came across a blog post about a TCPA class action lawsuit that was thrown out for being frivolous to say the least.

Without getting into too much detail, a man recently tried to sue Citibank, claiming that its direct marketing efforts were a violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The man claimed that he contacted Citibank in May of 2011 to apply for a credit card. As part of the application process, he gave his cell phone number to the bank and a few days later he received a text message with a promotion for Citi Cards (Citibank’s credit card). That message said he had the opportunity to opt out of future text messages by simply replying with the word “stop.” He did this, and Citibank sent him a final text, confirming that he would no longer receive promotions through the text message program. The man then proceeded to file suit in the Southern District of California, where he argued that the final confirmation text message violated the TCPA.

Now, if the man had opted out of the text message program and continued to receive promotions, I could very easily understand why he would be upset. That would be a direct violation of the law and his rights would have been considered to be infringed upon, but this simply was not the case.  The ruling in this case helps set a precedent and protects the industry from frivolous lawsuits like this in the future.

New Technology in Contact Centers

The teleservice industry is continuing to evolve and as direct marketers, we must adapt to the way consumers choose to connect with us. The digital age is thriving and things like text messages, email and social media are becoming more and more popular mediums of communication with consumers. When I look at this particular case, I am encouraged to see the judge’s decision reflects a balance in protecting the rights of consumer privacy with that of legitimate business interests.

With all of this being said, I think it is important that call centers, like InfoCision, understand our role in all of this. We have to remain compliant and follow the regulations that are in place. Here at InfoCision, we have invested millions of dollars in technology and dedicated resources to ensure all of our campaigns comply fully with all applicable laws and regulations, including the TCPA and the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).  We also have to be aware that our industry is unfortunately often under scrutiny. Violations by a few bad actors could ultimately result in more restrictions on our business. The new advances in technology are enabling us to expand consumer choice and create a superior customer service experience.

Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

So far in the first two posts in our fundraising series, I’ve covered some different ways professional fundraisers help nonprofits to raise funds, through acquisition campaigns and by enhancing long-term donor value.  These approaches require a great deal of strategy and creativity in getting the right message to the right donor at the right time through the right channel.

However, there is another service professional fundraisers provide for nonprofits, without which all those things I listed above would not matter; I’m talking about regulatory compliance.

Regulatory compliance in the direct marketing industry is complex, but highly important

A successful long-term direct marketing strategy is built on the foundation of adherence to the myriad of laws and regulations put in place by the applicable government entities.  All of us are familiar with Do Not Call laws and the emergency of teleservices guidelines over the last ten years, but it’s much more than that.  The federal government and each individual state has very specific regulations for every kind of direct marketing campaign, including traditional mail, phone calls, email, text messaging, etc.

Nonprofit organizations focus on raising funds with the best intentions to make a tremendously positive difference for our world.  However, the fundraising campaign must be implemented in tune with federal and state regulations.  There is no room for error and regulators are not sympathetic to misunderstandings of statutory requirements.  Given the tremendous scope of regulatory issues that must be managed, staying compliant can be a daunting task for any organization.

As a marketing partner to Nonprofit organizations, InfoCision has invested millions of dollars in technology aimed at preventing compliance failures, and dedicated practitioners whose only job is to stay updated with regulatory issues and keeping our clients protected.

This can be a huge burden off the shoulders of nonprofits, and it’s yet another part of the reason that so many choose to partner with dedicated professionals to contact their donors.

Another aspect of compliance that a professional marketing partner like InfoCision should handle is the filing of information with the government agencies – and this information becomes part of reports that are public record.  In my final post in this series, I will discuss how consumers can read this information to make good decisions with their fundraising dollars and avoid confusion over what the numbers mean.

 

Click here for Fundraising Part 1: How Nonprofits and Professional Fundraisers Partner to make a Difference

Click here for Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Click here for Fundraising Part 4: Using Information to Make an Informed Choice as a Donor

The Importance of Call Center Compliance

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks.  However, when it comes to regulatory compliance in the call center industry, taking risks should never be an option.  Capital One Financial Corp, which has been working exclusively with low-cost offshore call center vendors, was recently fined $210 million dollars by the Consumer Protection Bureau for deceptive marketing tactics undertaken by their offshore call center partner.  Unfortunately, because the call center was short cutting training and quality processes, the client has become responsible for significant fines resulting from the fraudulent practices by their offshore call center agents.

Capital One released a statement in response, “Capital One’s third-party vendors did not always adhere to company sales scripts and sales policies for payment protection and credit-monitoring products, and the bank did not adequately monitor their activities.”

Compliance at InfoCision
No company should ever have to issue a statement like this because of the unethical practices of their marketing partner.  Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting the state and federal requirements for every program that takes place in one of our call centers.  We provide our clients with a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give them peace of mind in all aspects of the management of their campaign.  As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance.