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.
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.
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.