Voice Broadcasting (Robocalls), Ringless Voicemail (RVMs), SMS, and other forms of automated communications are all very powerful and cost effective tools for individuals, organizations, and businesses to get their messages out to vast audiences. However, with these powerful methods of direct communication comes with some important responsibilities.
Each of the different communication technologies and the purposes for which they are used (i.e. telemarketing, political campaigns, and non-commercial purposes) are governed under specific legal frameworks and are regulated by federal and sometimes state agencies.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are the national agencies that regulate and enforce most of the federal laws dealing with automated communications such as voice broadcasts, RVMs and SMS. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs telemarketing calls; calls using automated dialers, calls using pre-recorded messages, and fax and SMS/text messaging. The FCC is mandated to regulate matters that fall under the TCPA. The Telemarketing Sales Rules (TSR) purpose is to prevent telemarketing fraud and to protect consumers from telemarketing scams. The FTC enforces the provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rules.
Having a solid understanding of the applicable rules and regulations that govern each form of automated communications and making sure that you are working with a reputable service providers are essential to remaining in compliance with the law. The consequences of violating provisions of any of the rules or regulations can be severe. When in doubt, it is always best to consult with an experienced telecommunication attorney and to ensure that your team is aware of compliance requirements.
In general, businesses, organizations and individuals using auto-dialers and pre-recorded messages for commercial purposes and are subject to a number of compliance requirements, including:
– The need to obtain prior express written consent from the consumer;
– Ensuring that the pre-recorded messages accurately identifies the caller;
– Ensuring that the pre-recorded messages provide information regarding the purpose of the call;
– Ensuring that the pre-recorded message provides an operational call-back number that would allow a consumer to contact the caller and to opt-out from the call list;
– Ensuring that the pre-recorded message allows for an opt-out option by voice and/or key-press; and
– Any call lists used should be purged against the National Do Not Call List.
There are specific exemptions from the above requirements and there are also local and state laws and rules that may apply.
Charities, not-for-profits, health related entities, and political callers may be exempt from some of the compliance obligations set out in the TCPA. Different, more stringent rules also apply to auto-dialed calls to mobile phones. Pre-recorded auto-dialed telemarketing calls cannot be made to mobile phones without prior written consent.
Ringless Voice Messages (RVM) are an effective method of connecting to a large audience. With RVMs, messages are placed directly into a recipient’s voicemail box without a call being made and without disturbing the recipient. At present, the FCC and FTC have yet to enforce TCPA and TSR rules against RVM technology.
Being aware of the compliance rules and having a compliance plan are essential steps in avoiding running afoul of the applicable rules and regulations. Take the time to understand these important issues and your business, organization or operation will enjoy the power and return of these automated communication technologies.
Information contained above is intended as general information only. The information is not legal advice. It should not be construed as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. For information specific to your situation, you should seek legal advice from an experienced telecommunications attorney in your jurisdiction.
Andrew Iler, Senior Legal Counsel, In-House Legal Department.