The Telephone Consumer Protection Act 47 U.S.C 227, or TCPA, is a federal statute that aims to protect consumer privacy by controlling telemarketing communications made via voice calls, fax, and SMS texts.
The TCPA Act was signed into law in 1991, largely in response to an upswing in harassing telemarketer calls. The Act has wide-ranging consequences, including the 2003 formation of a National Do Not Call Registry, which prohibits telemarketers from making unsolicited, unwanted calls to numbers on the registry.
With technological advances, the TCPA has undergone several amendments and changes since 1991. The most recent change occurred in 2015 when the FCC released the TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order, which clarified restrictions and consumer rights.
The main focus of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is to prohibit a telemarketing auto-dialer with an artificial or pre-recorded voice to make a call to a landline or wireless phone without prior express written consent.
The newest TCPA clarifications included changes such as:
A large portion of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act hinges on the idea of “consent” and what qualifies or doesn’t qualify as consent. This idea of written consent has practical implications for telemarketers since, in the event of a dispute, the onus is on them to prove that they did receive consent to call or contact the person in question.
According to the FFC, “prior express written consent” is a written, signed agreement that authorizes the seller to deliver adverts or telemarketing calls or messages to the signatory. Also, the seller can’t force the person to give their consent as a condition of buying any property, goods, or services.
According to the most recent version of the TCPA, the only exceptions where prior express consent isn’t needed:
The TCPA aims to protect consumers from the frustration of dealing with constant telemarketing calls. While this may be a noble goal, since very few people want to pick up the phone to listen to an ad, the TCPA also represents a minefield for unsuspecting marketing departments and companies.
The number of class-action lawsuits against telemarketers is on the rise, yet many companies that use telemarketing as a marketing strategy don’t feel at risk. Misunderstanding or technical non-compliance isn’t a shield against the TCPA, and lengthy civil suits have hit many large and small companies.
On average, the FTC receives 250,000 complaints regarding TCPA violations per month. The most common violations of the TCPA remain automated dialing to a number in the National Do Not Call Registry or inadequate disclosures during a phone call.
Currently, the penalties set out by the TCPA are $500 per call made in violation of the TCPA. However, plaintiffs can demand up to three times that amount, which can add up to significant amounts of money. Even innocent mistakes, such as not providing full disclosures, can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Since the fine is awarded per violation (or per call), some larger fines have been in the millions of dollars.
Myths Around Consumer Protection Act TCPA Compliance
If you’re feeling secure that you’re TCPA compliant, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the more common myths surrounding the situation:
The definition of an automatic dialing system is significantly broader than you may think. If you use click-to-dial to call a number, you may be subject to the same restrictions as a formal predictive dialing system.
There are plenty of modifications that can turn a digital dialing system into an automated one, and you don’t want to spend a year in court showing that you didn’t use your existing system as a predictive dialer.
We Get IP Addresses and Screenshots as Proof of Consent
What constitutes prior express written consent may be well-established, but some forms of evidence are less persuasive than others. For instance, while screenshots of customer consent are better than nothing, they may not be convincing enough to avoid a lawsuit. It’s vital to have a robust system in place that can stand against legal challenges, preferably one with an audit history to show records of consent being granted and/or revoked, with date and time stamps and other details associated that a screenshot alone typically doesn’t provide.
If you’re a small company, you may think you’re safe from litigation. However, the truth is that many consumers are fed up with telemarketing calls and will lash out at anyone they can. Sometimes small companies are viewed as more likely to comply with a settlement, since they’re less likely to have a team of lawyers on their side or may not have the resources to bother with a protracted legal battle. Being a small company does not protect you: if you use your phone to call customers, you may unknowingly violate terms of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which can lead to a ruined reputation and significant expenses.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) can be an intimidating set of regulations to tackle, especially alone. You may want to consider halting sales outreach efforts via an automated method until you’ve performed a thorough risk assessment.
As inadequate disclosures are one of the top TCPA complaints, an important step is to review your TCPA disclosure and get it up to scratch. Some of the primary elements of a proper disclosure include:
In addition, the consumer must be aware of and understand several things:
Your next step should be to get in touch with a specialist who understands the law and how to apply it to ordinary telemarketing situations, alongside a scrubbing solution that can keep your contact lists clean and compliant with an audit history to verify express consent and whether it has been granted or revoked.
Don’t just rely on a TCPA compliance guide to dictate your policy regarding telemarketing calls. Even the smallest mistake can be incredibly costly, so it’s worth your while to find a specialist to help you draw up a comprehensive compliance solution.
If the idea of accidentally violating the TCPA is keeping you up at night, give PossibleNOW a call. We have a team of experts on hand to help you mitigate your risk and keep you safe during your lead generation activities. Our flagship product DNCSolution is the leading Do Not Contact solution for multi-channel direct marketing compliance, created with regulations like TCPA in mind. And our compliance advisory experts can help you assess your level of risk, identify any areas of concern, and work with you to ensure ongoing compliance with regulations like TCPA.