DNC

DNC Spamming in Are Code 954

If your number has a 954 area code, you are probably getting more of those dreaded robocalls than most people around the country.

Broward County’s main area code ranks high on YouMail’s September Robocall List.

The company says that 4.4 billion robocalls were made last month nationwide. That comes out to 147 million per day, or more than 13 per person. However, in Broward, the number jumps to 31 calls per person.

Broward was fifth on the list, while, Miami’s 305 area code was last on the Top 20 list. Perhaps surprisingly to some, Palm Beach County’s area code did not make the list.

YouMail estimates that about 36 percent of the robocalls were scams. Another 20 percent or so were telemarketing calls, and payment reminders and alerts account for the remainder.

Relief is on the way, though.

A strategy is being developed to end robocalling. The Federal Communications Commission has issued a license for a new technology called Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN) and Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR). In short, it would assign each phone number a digital certificate of authenticity to ensure that calls made from a phone number are actually coming from that number.

That solution can’t come soon enough.

Top DNC Violations – Edward Jones

Top DNC Violations #6

Edward Jones is a national financial broker that has its headquarters in Des Peres, Missouri. It is an extensive firm that offers financial services in the US and Canada, and it has over 7 million clients. While it has offices in over 12,000 locations, its problems arose in New Hampshire, where is has 58 offices. Edward Jones specializes and focuses on small-business owners and individual financiers. Part of the company’s marketing strategy is door-to-door visits to try and find new customers, as well as cold calling and promotional text messages.

Edward Jones was under investigation by the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation (BSR) after there was a number of complaints made by residents on the Do-Not-Call list, who claimed that the company had been calling them without permission. During the investigation the BSR uncovered a record of around 20,000 phone calls that where made to residents who were on the National Do-Not-Call registry.

The company was found guilty of soliciting potential clients through the use of cold calling, and a huge number of these cold calls were made to numbers that were registered with the DNC database.

The Fine

Edwards Jones was facing a $3,000,000 lawsuit, but in February this year they agreed to pay $750,000 dollars while also making some changes in the firm. They were charged with violating the rules and regulations of the Do-Not-Call act by cold calling a large percentage of residents that were registered in the DNC list. It was also charged for the lack of training and support offered to its employees with regards to the proper rules and regulations that surround the DNC, and the company’s lack of training for its staff with regards to how to successfully navigate and enter details onto the DNC database to try and avoid calling people who were registered there.

As well as paying the fine Edward Jones had to agree to stop its illegal cold calling, and to alter and reshape their telephonic solicitation practices. The company is also responsible for training its staff in the correct and professional way to use telephonic marketing, and the most efficient ways in which to correctly use the Do-Not-Call Database to ensure that there are no future violations.

Other Repercussions

This is not the first charge that the company has been hit with, as in 2004 SEC, NASD and the New York exchange bought charges against Edward Jones for failing to disclose revenue sharing payments and the firm had to fork out $75 million and had to agree to disclose its financial practices on its website. The statement that they made was: “Edward Jones receives payments known as revenue sharing from certain mutual fund companies, 529 plan program managers and insurance companies (collectively referred to as “product partners”). Virtually all of Edward Jones’ transactions relating to mutual funds, 529 plans and insurance products involve product partners that pay revenue sharing to Edward Jones. We want you to understand that Edward Jones’ receipt of revenue sharing payments creates a potential conflict of interest in the form of an additional financial incentive and financial benefit to the firm, its financial advisors and equity owners in connection with the sale of products from these product partners.

Despite these charges the company hasn’t taken much of a knock and in fact continues to grow, the charge may have tarnished the company’s reputation for a limited amount of time, but the company is well known for its high standards and is one of the most popular investment brokers in the US. If they stick to the rules and don’t violate any more of the DNC’s laws, then the company should be able to recover significantly and go on with business as usual.

Top DNC Violations – Americall Group

Top DNC Violations #7

Americall Group, Inc. is an Illinois based telemarketing firm that specializes in a number of different areas. Some of the services that they offer include conducting surveys, data collection, live answering services, class and seminar registration, website receptionist live service and inbound answering services. They work for a variety of different institutions including banks, credit card issuers, insurance companies, investment companies and many other financial corporations.

The company is a third party telemarketer, which means that they make and receive calls on the behalf of their clients and the businesses that they run. Americall Group, Inc. is responsible for making telemarketing calls for their clients to promote and sell their products and services to potential clients.

What Did They Do Wrong?

There are three main rules that Americall Group, Inc. violated in the Telemarketing Sales Rules Act (“TSRA”). They misled consumers with a fake caller ID, refused to place consumers on the Do-Not-Call list and continued to phone these consumers and they purposefully trained their staff to ignore these requests.

  1. Firstly the company specifically trained their telemarketing staff to ignore any request to be put on the company’s internal DNC list. The Americall Group, Inc. manual especially states that if the customer states “Do not call me back”, that the employee should most certainly NOT place them on the company specific DNC list.
  2. The second violation is one that followed up from the first, and Americall Group, Inc. employees refused to honor the consumers wish for no more calls or to be placed in the DNC by phoning them back repeatedly. There is a rule in the FTC’s TSRA and that is that a company cannot interfere with a customers wish to be placed on the company’s DNC list and yet the company specifically disregarded this law by not placing consumers on the list, but also by continuing to try and solicit their services through phone calls.
  3. The third violation was that of the company transmitting a false caller ID when they were phoning clients. In the TSRA there is a rule that all companies should make their caller ID known to their consumer, so that they can choose whether to answer the phone or not. Americall Group, Inc. deliberately changed their caller ID to something else to trick consumers into answering.

The Charge

The Americall Group, Inc. decided that it would be best to settle rather than face the full wrath of the courts and they were fined $500,000, as well as being ordered to desist from their current illegal telemarketing practices, while also that they should refrain from breaking any of the TSRA laws in their future telemarketing campaigns.

The company is going to have to revise its whole training technique, and teach its employees how to successfully add consumers to their DNC list, while also teaching them how to research whether particular customers are on the national DNC list.

Repercussions

Despite the hefty sum of the $500,000 fine that the company had to pay, they are a very popular telemarketing service throughout the country, and they have a very strong customer base with over 30 big corporations choosing to work with them.

They certainly need to change and adjust their telemarketing practices if they wish to abide by the TSRA’s rules and to keep up their part of the settlement that they reached with the FTC. But on a whole they have managed to retain an extremely strong clients list, and while their reputation may have been temporarily muddied, there is no doubt that other than losing the $500,000, that they are back to business as usual.

Top DNC Violations – Rascal Scooters

Top DNC Violations #8

Rascal Scooters are a form of electrical scooter that has been designed specifically for people who have movement problems. They are mainly purchased and used by the elderly or disabled people who need help getting around in their every day lives.

The scooter is manufactured by the company Electric Mobility Corporation, and is owned by Michael Flowers. The company uses telemarketing as a party of its marketing strategy to make consumers aware of new products, promotions and competitions that are running.

What Did Electric Mobility Corp Do Wrong?

The FTC claims that Electric Mobility Corporation used the contacts gathered from sweepstakes entry forms to call and solicit clients who had been registered with the national DNC registry.

The company used emails, television advertisements and newsletters to encourage consumers to enter into a “Win a Free Rascal Sweepstakes”, and the consumers were required to put their numbers on the form, so that the company will be able to call them if they turned out to be the lucky winner.

The company then used these contact numbers to call millions of people who had entered into the sweepstakes, despite the fact that many of these people belonged to the Do-Not-Call registry.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule in the FTC states that a company is allowed to contact consumers for 18 months after they register for the DNC, but only if they have an established business relationship with this contact.

The rule does however state that contact information gotten through a sweepstakes, doesn’t constitute to having a business relationship with the consumer. Therefore the Electric Mobility Company and Michael Flowers were in violation of both the FTC act, and the Do-Not-Call act of the Telemarketing Sales Act.

The Charge

The company and Mr Flowers made a settlement in April 2011 with the FTC, but have yet to admit any guilt to their violations. The FTC still ascertains that the Electric Mobility Corporation and Michael Flowers were guilty of making over 3 million illegal telemarketing calls since 2003.

The charge bans EMC and Michael Flowers from using sweepstakes as a way to establish a business relationship with the consumer, to try and find a way around the national DNC. The company will also be monitored for a period of time, and will have to report to the FTC to ensure that it has taken measures to comply with the orders’ terms.

A fine of $2 million was given to EMC, but it was suspended due to the companies inability to pay the money, If the company is found to have falsified its financial status, it will be immediately liable for the full amount of money. Michael Flowers was charged with a $100,000 fine.

Repercussions

The Electric Mobility Corporation was already in financial stress before the charge, as they made a case that they were unable to pay the fine. This combined with the large number of items being discontinued by the company point to a decided down turn in business, however they are responsible for the manufacture of a lot more than scooters and the charge hasn’t seen these other products being damaged.

The reputation of Rascal Scooters themselves, and that of Michael Flowers was only tarnished slightly and their scooters still sell extremely well throughout the country to the elderly and disabled population.

The owner of the company incurred the heaviest losses with his fine of $100,000, but so far he seems to have made the necessary changes to his company’s telemarketing strategy that not only complies with the FTC order and doesn’t violate the TSR or Do-Not-Call acts, but that also allows the company’s consumers the level of privacy which they have requested.

Top DNC Violations – CallFire

Over the past decade, the DNC has been responsible for hundreds of lawsuits against businesses large and small. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to count down the Top DNC Violations since its establishment. We’ll look at what each company was doing wrong, how they were charged for their mistakes, and what they could have done to fix them. Without further ado, we bring you the Top DNC Violations of All Time:

Top DNC Violations #9

Skyy Consulting Inc., which also does business as CallFire, is a cloud based telephony service provider that designs, creates and sells VoIP services and products. The company was founded in 2004, and has its headquarters located in California. In 2012 CallFire had an estimated 50,000 consumers throughout the country.

Skyy Consulting Inc. uses telemarketing as one of its promotional strategies in its marketing plans. The company and its clients call existing and potential consumers about their promotions, products and notification about the current state of their clients’ accounts, such as lease renewal.

What Did They Do Wrong?

Skyy Consulting Inc. or CallFire, allowed their clients to make prerecorded telemarketing calls to their consumers, without their prior consent. Telemarketing companies, in a bid to reach as many people as possible at one time, use Robocalls as a marketing method. The messages are either computer-generated voices, or they are personalized voices that are recorded and repeated over the phone.

The FTC made Robocalls for telemarketing campaigns illegal in 2009, in response to a massive number of scams that were taking place using robocalls as a prompt for people to go further with the conversation. These calls were used to make people believe they owed something to a particular company, and then they get put through to a ‘customer service provider’ who scammed them out of money.

The problem with robocalls is not just that they are intrusive and misleading, they are also sent out to millions of people at a time, regardless of whether the numbers listed are on the Do-Not-Call Data base.

The FTC ascertains that Skyy Consulting Inc, were aware that their clients were sending out pre-recorded telemarketing messages, and it is believed that in some cases, the company actually assisted their clients in doing so. The FTC charged that Skyy Consulting Inc. either knew all about their client’s robocalls, or that they merely turned a blind eye to the fact and simply avoided knowing.

These are serious violations against the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) act, and the only time robocalls can be used in a legal manner is for public service or emergency announcements, and in some states for political use, although there are rules and regulations attached to these exceptions that vary from state to state.

The Charge

The FTC and Skyy Consulting Inc./CallFire reached a settlement that sees the company pay a fine of $75,000. The companies has also agreed to stop transmitting illegal robocalls to its consumers, as well as review all pre-recorded messages of its clients and to terminate the contracts of all clients that are found to have been sending out illegal pre-recorded messages.

The company must also review all of the existing pre-recorded messages on its database within 120 days, and delete any of the messages that do not comply with the TSR standards.

Repercussions

While $75,000 is quiet a substantial amount of money, the financial repercussions of the charge itself were not huge, as the company was one of the fastest growing small businesses in the United States, and it has recently expanded into the UK and Europe. But the company and its clients over use of illegal robocalls did the damage even before the charge was brought against them. One client stated that she received over 100 calls in a period of just 20 minutes, this constant harassment and inconvenience has caused a large number of customers to switch service providers.

As a relatively small business with just over 50,000 customers, Skyy Consulting Inc. will need to drastically re-adjust their telemarketing campaign if they wish to hold on to their existing client base, and to attract any more potential customers to the company.

Telemarketing Rules You Should Know About

If you are in sales, it is important to understand the telemarketing rules governing your industry to make sure that you don’t accidentally wind up violating one and slapped with a fine.

There are several laws that govern telemarketing including The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) Do Not Call Registry, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  Many of the guidelines overlap and in the past year some of the rules have tightened, for example, with calls made to cell phones.

Telemarketing Rules for Cell Phones

Previously, if you had an existing relationship with a customer, you could call their cell phone.  This was considered implied consent.  Basically, if they bought something from you they obviously would want to hear from you again, right?  Apparently not.  Enough consumers complained that the legislation was changed to require companies to secure “express written consent” prior calling someone on their cell phone.  The written consent can be in paper or electronic form and can be revoked by the consumer at any time.

Charging a Customer Over the Phone

If you are selling a product over the phone and collecting payment for it, you must receive “express informed consent” from the consumer prior to charging their card. This means that you must disclose the fact that the card is about to be charged and the exact amount of the charge itself. If you have their financial information prior to placing the call, you still must confirm the account they want to use, billing address and the dollar amount that will be charged now or in the future.

Telemarketing Rules for Caller ID

When placing a call, you need to make sure that your phone number, and when possible your name, shows up on the caller ID.  Do a test call to make sure everything shows up correctly and avoid a potential violation.

Live Transfer

In order to reduce abandoned calls, if you are using an auto dialer it must transfer the call to you or another live agent within two seconds of someone answering the phone.  This is to reduce the number of dead air calls and hang-ups.

Robocalls

Before a business can call with a pre-recorded message, it must have consent from the consumer to make that specific type of call.  For example, if you want to reach people with pre-recorded message, they must specifically approve that call.  This is the strictest form of calling regulation apart from making calls to cell phones.  The exception is if you are making an informative call to a customer, for example, an airline calling to say that the flight was delayed.

No list of cold calling rules would be complete without a reminder to scrub your lead list against the Do Not Call Registry.  It is also wise to have a policies and procedures manual, even if you are a solopreneur, that states the steps you are taking to stay in compliance with cold calling regulation.  Make sure that the entire staff reads and signs this document on an annual basis.  If you accidentally call someone on the DNC Registry or make another violation, this will demonstrate that it was accidental, and you have been trying to stay in compliance.

State Telemarketing Laws

If you are a telemarketer or making sales calls, it is important to follow both federal and state telemarketing laws.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that they only need to follow the federal laws and avoid violating the Do Not Call Registry.  The reality is that each state has the ability to make their own laws and to enforce them.  If you are calling in your home state, you can easily place a call to your local Attorney General to identify any specific laws that you need to be following.  If you are calling nationwide it becomes more complicated, and you need to make sure that your policies and procedures are established to avoid any violations.

Here are some state telemarketing laws that you need to know about:

  • Missouri – The state of Missouri has a No Call Law.  This law prohibits telemarketers from contacting any residential numbers that are on the states no call registry.  Even if the individual has not listed their phone number on the federal registry, they could be listed on the statewide one.  Missouri defines a telemarketer as anyone who is connected to a company that does telemarketing through incoming or outgoing phone calls. This includes automatic calls made from a computer, owners, operators, directors, and managers of said companies. In order to get a copy of the registry businesses have to apply for it and pay a $50 fee.  The registry is updated every quarter and both in state and out of state companies must comply with the telemarketing laws.
  • New York – New York has passed several state wide telemarketing laws that make it more difficult for companies making sales calls.  They require that any telemarketing company using pre-recorded messages must have prior written consent before reaching New Yorkers at home.  They also have a law requiring telemarketers raising money for charity to disclose how much of the money goes to the charity itself.  Both in state and out of state companies must comply with their telemarketing laws and keep records of all activities for two years.
  • Arizona – Telemarketing companies making sales calls in Arizona must first register with their Secretary of State.  If any company has a change in their filing, it must be reported within ten days of the change.  This applies to all companies making telemarketing calls in Arizona.  The state does not allow telemarketing companies to block their Caller ID or use prerecorded messages on mobile devices.

These are only some of the states with specific telemarketing laws on the books.  It is important to check the state laws prior to making calls in order to avoid any potential violations.  You should also create a policies and procedures manual that includes how to follow both federal and state laws.  This will be a good reference guide and show authorities that you are trying to comply if a mistake is accidentally made.

You can also purchase a specific call list from www.SalesLeads.tv to ensure that your calling efforts are reaching the right people and as effective as possible.

The NDNCR – What You Should Know

What You Should Know About the Do Not Call Registry as a Telemarketer

If you are making sales calls you are probably familiar with the National Do Not Call Registry.  As a telemarketing company you are required to comply with specific provisions of the TCPA regulation, including scrubbing your lead lists against the DNC registry.

Here is what you need to know about the Do Not Call Registry and staying in compliance.

  • The registry was created in 2003 and is monitored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • People can list their home phones and personal phones on the registry.  Business numbers are typically not listed but it is smart to check in case a small business is using the owners cell phone.
  • Calls covered under the DNC are those with the purpose of selling something.  This includes people selling something directly or arranging a sale for someone else.
  • If you are conducting a survey and trying to sell something on the same call, it is covered under the DNC guidelines. If you want to make survey calls without worrying about the guidelines, gather the data you need and make a separate sales call.
  • In order to have use the established business exemption, a consumer needs to have bought something from you within the past eighteen months.  If they have applied for something from your company, but not purchased, you can call for an additional three months.

Exceptions

Political calls, charities, survey calls, and companies that a consumer has an existing relationship with do not need to abide by these provisions.  If a charity is calling to raise money they are not bound to the DNC rules, however, if a third party is calling on behalf of that charity than they have to abide by the rules and stop calling if the consumer requests it.

If you are a for profit company you can also gain exemption from the rules by doing the following:

  • Providing Information.  If your calls are for informational purposes you do not have to follow the DNC guidelines.  For example, an organization calling to inform people about a community event.
  • Business to Business Calls.  B2B sales calls are exempt from the DNC guidelines, making it easier for telemarketers to contact businesses rather than consumers. Just make sure not to call personal cell phones, as they could be registered.
  • Receive Written Permission.  If you want to call or text consumers that may be on the DNC you need to obtain  prior written permission to do so.  This can be a traditional document or electronically signed.  Prior written consent should be obtained whenever possible as you build your calling data base because it gives you the most calling and texting flexibility.

Remember to follow these guidelines in order to stay in compliance and avoid receiving unnecessary fines.  A recommended best practice is to create a procedural manual that lists out your policies and procedures for how to check numbers against the do not call list, what you do when someone asks to be taken off of your list, and how you train employees on regulation updates.  This binder should include a training log that employees have to sign, certifying they have read and understand the compliance.  Even if you are a small organization, this binder could prevent you from getting a fine if you make an accidental mistake.

Telemarketing Rules for Debt Relief Companies

The Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center has released a guide on telemarketing rules for debt relief companies.

There are basic provisions about cold calling that apply to all industries  For example, you must scrub your lead list against the Do Not Call Registry and must have a policy in place for how to follow these guidelines.  As of October 2013 companies are also not allowed to send text messages without prior written consent.

While many of these rules are the same across all industries that are specific, additional provisions that apply to debt relief companies.  These regulations have been created to protect consumers against what the government feels are deceptive or misleading practices.

The major difference with these new telemarketing rules is that it ALSO applies to calls you receive – not just outbound calls you place.

Here is what you need to know:

  • You must make specific disclosures before selling people your services. There are specific things that you have to disclose.  This includes how long it will take for the consumer to see results, the basics of what you will be doing for them, what they have to pay, how working with you will negatively impact their credit, and information on dedicated accounts. Basically, the consumer needs to be informed about how your business works, the steps along the way, and the good and bad results that they will experience.
  • You must be truthful about your services. You cannot make false or unsubstantiated claims about your services.  This is common sense but necessary to specifically mention it.
  • You can’t charge or collect upfront fees.  Until you have settled their debts or somehow negotiated a different payment scenario, you cannot collect fees from the customer.  If you negotiate each debt individually, you can collect a fee each time.  The caveat is that you cannot front-load any payments. If you are having customers make a payment of fees and to the creditor that goes into a specified account their are set rules for how that has to be handled.

The best way to protect yourself from violating telemarketing rules is to stay up to date on changes and create an internal policy that is regularly shared with your employees.  Make sure that employees are trained on the fact that telemarketing rules now also apply to in-bound calls they receive.  Keep a log where each employee signs that they were trained, or received a refresher course, on a specific day.  This is a good best practice for any company that is engaged in telemarketing.  The penalties are less severe for companies that can prove they are trying to abide by the regulation but may have had a rogue employee.

If you are providing outsourced telemarketing services make sure that your contract specifies who is liable for any violations, who would pay the fees, and if either party is required to provide legal support in the event that charges are brought.  It is important for each party to abide by the telemarketing rules and specific contracts can protect you in the event of an accidental violation.

Definitions Under the TCPA

Definitions Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

 

If you are in sales, marketing, or a telemarketer by trade it is important to understand the rules found within the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in order to avoid accidentally violating them. TCPA Violations can lead to fines or even losing the ability to telemarket.

Here is what you need to know:

Telemarketing Defined

The regulations consider a telemarketing call to be one made by advertisers to offer or sell products or services.  If you are simply providing information it is not telemarketing.  For example, an airline telling you a flight has been delayed is not considered telemarketing.

An Autodialer is a Machine or Software That Helps You Make Calls

When you have to pick up the phone and personally dial every call, it can take a lot of time and slow you down.  Minutes are wasted dialing, waiting for someone to answer, and getting busy signals.  An autodialer can automatically call people for you and give them a recorded message or connect you once they have answered.  While this is a more efficient calling method it is also more highly regulated.   If your autodialer delivers a pre-recorded message it is considered a robocall, the most highly regulated form of telemarketing.   Previously, if a consumer had an existing business relationship with you a robocall would be acceptable.  Now, there must be prior written consent in order to avoid a violation.

Text Messages Are Regulated by the TCPA

Recent regulation has made it more difficult for telemarketers to contact people on their cell phone.  Now, if you want to send a text message you need to have prior written consent from the consumer to do so.  This cannot be considered implied consent but must be clearly spelled out in writing.  You can have consumers sign their consent on a traditional piece of paper or electronically give their consent.  This is a big change because in the past an existing business relationship fulfilled this requirement. The only exception is text messages for the purpose of informing someone, rather than selling them something.

Do Not Call Registry 

It is important to always scrub your call list against the national Do Not Call Registry.  Remove anyone that is on the registry from your list.  If you contact someone that was not registered, but wants to be removed from your list, you must do so immediately.  It is wise to have a written policy in place for how you remove people once a request has been made.

Violating TCPA Regulations

If you violate the TCPA guidelines you could be fined anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per call, message, or text.  This is not per day but per call.  If you make 100 calls that violate these regulations that could be a $150,000 fine.  Many companies have gone out of business due to these penalties.

Stay up to date on regulation and create policies and procedures to protect yourself and your company.  Taking the time to ensure that you are in compliance could save you money and headaches down the road.