What DNC Means to You
According to the Direct Marketing Association, over
300,000 people had registered by noon on Friday, June 27, 2003,
the first day the DNC website went live. After only fourteen hours
of operation the web site had logged about 735,000 registrants.
Interestingly enough however, a large number of confirmation emails
from the FTC may have been blocked by anti-Spam software. Just
over a year later, the number of registered phone numbers is nearing
the 70 million mark!
Certain amendments were made to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR)
when the "Final Rule" was published on January 26 of
this year, but some regulations have remained hard and fast. Telemarketers
are still required to restrict their calls to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
identify themselves as a seller, and offer full disclosure of the
goods and services they are hawking without misrepresentation.
The amendments addressed further issues, including the ominous
DNC list which got its start in June, 2003. Exemptions, call abandonment,
digital identity disclosure, and the definition of "authorized
billing" are topics that all telemarketers should be aware
of whether they are primarily concerned with telemarketing and
voice broadcast or involved with these media secondarily as part
of their overall marketing scheme.
True to form, congress has exempted non-profit groups soliciting
donations, including campaign donations, from scrubbing their call
lists against the FTC's DNC list each ninety days. And, telemarketing
firms operating on a non-profit organization's behalf are similarly
exempt; although, they must honor individuals' requests to have
their numbers stricken from the dial list. Long distance companies,
airlines, and insurance carriers are also exempt. However, telemarketers
operating on their behalf are not exempt.
Still, removing DNC numbers from their auto dialers is not the
only thing that direct voice marketers have to worry about. To
save consumers from waiting for extended periods before talking
to the seller that has called their house, telemarketers need to
connect them to a sales representative within two seconds of the
answer. If a representative is not available a recording must be
played with the seller's name and phone number but without a sales
pitch. Further, no more than 3% of answered calls can end in abandonment
and it is the telemarketer's responsibility to maintain records
illustrating compliance with these restrictions.
Although telemarketers have always been responsible for identifying
themselves verbally as a seller, according to the TSR, the final
rule now makes them responsible to identify themselves digitally.
Sellers' numbers and names if possible must be accessible to caller
Telemarketers are also responsible for identifying their billing
practices fully. The TSR has set forth very explicit guidelines
for what is considered authorized billing. Unauthorized billing
will be viewed as "abusive." Written billing confirmation
will only be allowed when sellers are not involving the consumer
in a free-to-pay situation and do not possess pre-acquired account
information. Only recorded oral authorization will be accepted
as "express informed consent" to billing in these situations
and only if they meet the following guidelines. The consumer must
express agreement to be billed, and the consumer must recite at
least the last four digits of their account number. Sellers and
telemarketers also cannot buy or sell unencrypted account numbers.
Before telemarketers throw their hands up, they should consider
that most of the regulations listed above are already in common
practice. Furthermore, sellers can still contact their customers
for up to three months following a request for information and
for eighteen months after they purchase a product or service or
pay a bill. Still, written permission is required for any for-profit
company to contact even their own clientele without restriction
if they are on the DNC list. However, we have been dealing with
the state run DNC's for a while. If anything, the FTC's DNC offers
a centralized contact point for phone number suppression, as opposed
to the thirty-five lists that are currently or soon to be in effect.
The TSR makes provisions to "square with" or incorporate
all these lists eventually.
SAN Number Provision
If you are utilizing a telephone to promote your business, you
need to register with the FTC on their website at www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov.
The first five area codes that you wish to solicit within are free.
Beyond that, each area code costs $25 per year with a maximum annual
fee of $7,325.
All Telemarketers who use the DNC list must first submit appropriate
certification information in order to receive a "SAN" (Subscription
Account Number). Your SAN entitles you to download the phone numbers
of the Do Not Call registrants in your calling areas.
Lists purchased from mailing list suppliers are often but not always pre-scrubbed
against the Do Not Call Lists from each state as well as the national list.
It is crucial, however, that everyone understands the penalty phase of the
rules. Only the company which benefits from the actual call is liable in the
event of an inappropriate call. That being said, it makes sound financial sense
to put a process in place that eliminates any numbers registered on the DNC
from your calling list. This de-dupe process can be completed in-house or by
your list supplier. Additionally, your SAN must be provided to your list supplier
prior to delivery of any telephone data. Plan ahead and avoid registration
delays by registering for your SAN well in advance of your campaign.
The rules are somewhat confusing and, depending on the size of
your calling area, somewhat expensive to follow. It's important
however to not let these and other factors put your organization
into a position of non-compliance. With a few easy steps and a
thorough process in place, you can avoid the "DNC blues".