Cell Phone Numbers - How Does the FCC Rule Impact You in the B2B Environment?
Autodialer technology has vastly improved the efficiency of the telemarketing industry. However, not every telemarketing attempt at using this technology has been successful; too many consumers were/are met with dead air and hang ups, which prompted them to file complaints.
On October 16, 2013, a new regulation from the FCC went into effect. Telemarketers are now prohibited from autodialing cell phones without prior express written consent. You can't grandfather in the fact that someone gave you the number previously. That's not enough. You have to have the legal language that grants permission to use that number for dialing purposes. This has required telemarketers to thoroughly scrub their call lists to ensure they're not breaking the new law, a priority for Blue Valley Telemarketing in all campaigns.
Under the new rule, telemarketers must get the agreement in writing and the signature of the person who is giving consent to be contacted via their mobile number. Obviously, the number must be included in the agreement and it must also state that the person allows the telemarketer to use prerecorded messages and automated dialing services. So, as of October 16, businesses that make telemarketing calls to cell phones had to either start using manual calling techniques or obtain the consent.
The fines for violating the new rule are no laughing matter. Businesses can incur civil penalties of $16,000 per call. Class action lawsuits can result in fines of $1,500 per call. Given the scope of the new law and complexities within it, many telemarketers sought the advice of attorneys who specialize in communications law and are well versed in the new FCC rule. Furthermore, making sure that call lists have been thoroughly scrubbed also became a bigger priority for some telemarketers.
With the proliferation of mobile phones in society today, this new rule would seem to be a major hang-up for telemarketers. Blue Valley reached out to those in the industry for their take on the rule change. Remarkably, those who took part in the survey don't seem vexed over the issue and some continue to make no distinction regarding the numbers they have on file, whether they are a cellular number or one belonging to a landline. The following is a look at the questions and responses Blue Valley found from our survey to industry leaders.
Have you changed the language on your telemarketing script to ensure that the numbers you have on file are
a landline? 93 percent of the respondents answered "no."
What percent of the records on your files were identified as Cell Phone numbers? Answers varied from 1 percent to 30 percent. One participant said their records don't indicate whether it is a cell number or a landline, only that it is a work or home phone.
What are you doing with cell phone numbers? The majority (53 percent) answered that they would not call them at all. Thirteen percent said they don't know (I don't ask the vendor and they don't tell). Twenty percent said they call them as they did before and have not changed their methods. Another 13 percent said they call the cell phone numbers manually.
One participant said how they handle cell phone numbers is based on the vendor. Some vendors agree to make the calls manually with no charge. Others charge more when calls are made manually.
"For most projects, I've been excluding the cell phones and don't call unless I absolutely need them," said one respondent.
Have you demanded/requested that cell phone numbers be called manually? Eighty-six percent answered "no," 13 percent said "yes."
Can your telemarketing vendor call cell phone numbers manually? Ninety percent said "yes," nine percent "no."
When called manually what percentage of price increase/decrease do you experience compared to your standard telemarketing campaign? Again, answers varied from "no idea" to "none" to "definitely slightly higher" to "modest increase."
What's the conversion rate (%) when calling cell phone numbers? Is it a higher or lower rate compared to your standard telemarketing campaign? Since some companies don't identify the number as a landline or a cell number, they can't track this information. For those that do, they either see the same conversions, have yet to look into the data or have seen similar or higher than standard conversion rates with the limited data they've processed to date.
Has your company taken actions to eliminate (or at least mark) cell numbers on your files? 63.6 percent said "no" and 36.3 percent said "yes."
Has your company changed the way you ask for phone numbers to accommodate the new FCC rules? Only nine percent answered "yes" to 90.9 percent saying "no." One person said they reviewed their current methods and determined no change is needed and that they are still in compliance with the FCC and BPA rule requirements.
Our findings on this survey suggest that the new FCC rules regarding the use of cell phone numbers did not have the impact on the industry we may have expected. It's also possible that publishers have already been following stringent cell phone standards even before the rule went into effect. The more likely scenario is that publishers haven't yet adopted the new rules as they have been impacted in a very small way. Others may have identified large volumes of cell phone numbers on their files and are exploring a manual process. Our best advice is to identify with your telemarketing vendor as to the best manual dialing process to put in place to convert these numbers.
Amended FCC Regulations Became Effective in October:
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted significant amendments to its Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations. The last, and most significant, changes adopted by the FCC are set to take effect on October 16, 2013.
Under the amended regulations, "prior express written consent" is required for: (1) telemarketing calls placed to cellular telephone numbers using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS); and/or (2) prerecorded telemarketing messages sent to cellular or residential telephone numbers. To obtain sufficient written consent, the following criteria must be met:
* Must be an agreement in writing bearing the signature of the person providing consent (pursuant to the E-SIGN Act, an electronic signature is sufficient);
* The agreement must include the telephone number to be called;
* The agreement must clearly authorize the seller to call the person using an ATDS or prerecorded message (as applicable) for telemarketing purposes;
* The agreement must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure that: (a) by executing the agreement, the person authorizes the seller to make telemarketing calls to the person using an ATDS or prerecorded message; and (b) that the person is not required to sign the agreement or provide consent as a condition of purchasing any goods or services.
The amended regulations do not change the requirements for non-telemarketing calls made to cell phones using an ATDS and/or prerecorded message.
Regardless of your current approach to handling cell phones, this rule change should not be ignored. Remember the Do Not Fax rule that was ignored by many 10 years ago and the legal ramifications that surfaced as a result? Consult with your legal department on the best approach to management and don't ignore rules that could land your organization in the FCC hot-seat, court or worse. Take the necessary action today.