- Registry Compliance for Telemarketers and Sellers ---
- How to Access and Use the Registry ---
- Additional Expectations and Best Practices ---
Disclaimer: The following article is only provided as a general overview. It may not necessarily include or be up to date with all the related requirements or apply to all situations. It is also not intended as legal advice. We recommend you do additional reading and carefully review the topic using FTC and FCC resources as such this article, these FAQs, and this regulation text.
Background and Consumers Usage
Registry Compliance for Telemarketers and Sellers
You can also call consumers on the registry if they gave you express written consent to do so. The consent needs to include the phone number to which calls may be made and the consumer's valid physical or electronic signature.
A business relationship lasts for up to 18 months after the consumer’s last purchase, last delivery, or last payment for goods or services. A business relationship is also established for 3 months from the day a consumer makes any inquiry or submits an application. In any case, during the business relationship period you must stop calling if the consumer makes a specific request to do so.
You must also stop calling when a consumer specifically requests it even if he is not listed on the registry. In other words, in addition to accessing the national registry you also need to maintain your company’s own do not call list.
Business-to-business calls are generally exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry. But business calls related to retail sales of nondurable office or cleaning supplies (anything that must be replaced when depleted) are not exempt and must comply with the TSR.
Non-profit organizations are also exempt, but their non-profit status needs to be determined by the FTC itself. Recognition of such status by other government offices may not be applicable! Agents and contractors who act on behalf of non-profit organizations are not exempt.
Potential Implications for Lack of Compliance
If you call someone on the registry without his written consent or without having a prior business relationship and he files a complaint, your phone number could be flagged for spam (read about spam flagging here), the FTC may sue you, and you may be subject to some heavy fines that could go up to tens of thousands of dollars per violation!
You can see the FTC's FAQs for accessing and using the registry here.
The Representative password grants access to all functions of the registry including downloading numbers and managing profiles, subscriptions, and clients (telemarketers or service providers you hire). It also allows changing passwords.
The Downloader password only allows downloading phone numbers and contacting the help desk.
The registry covers area codes for all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, North Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and toll-free numbers (500, 800, 866, 877, 880, 881, 882, and 888).
After your subscription is processed you can download files once in any 24-hour period for area codes, states, or the entire registry.
You are required to download updated versions of the registry at least every 31 days. To assist you with updates you will get email notifications about Change List file availability – a file that only contains telephone numbers relevant to your subscription that have been added to or deleted from the National Registry since the last time you performed a download.
Subscribers can also quickly check 10 telephone numbers per area code (and a total of 100 numbers per web session) using an online search tool instead of downloading files.
To protect yourself in case of inadvertently calling a number on the registry you need to have written procedures showing compliance with the registry requirements, train your staff in those procedures, monitor and enforce compliance, and maintain your own company-specific do-not-call list for consumers who directly request you do not call them (even if they are not on the registry).
Besides complying with the registry you are expected to exercise some best practices and Telemarketing Sales Rule requirements whenever placing or receiving telemarketing calls. Not doing so may get consumers to file complaints resulting in possible flagging of your telephone numbers or other actions carried out.
Remember that many states also have laws regulating telemarketing that you need to consider and apply.
- Respect quiet hours – don't call a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in his local time, unless you have his permission to do so.
- Be clear and transparent about any terms of your offer – don't use any deceptive, vague, abusive, or misleading language. Disclose all material information about the goods or services offered and the terms of the sale. Accurately describe the performance, efficacy, nature, or central characteristics of the goods or services offered
- Provide all relevant details – you need to allow the consumer to make an informed decision about whether to buy goods or services or make a donation including cost and quantity, restrictions, limitations or conditions, liabilities, and refund/cancellation/exchange policies.
- Explain any possible actions required by the consumer – if there are certain actions regarding the transaction, like canceling a free trial before a certain date to avoid a charge, make sure the consumer is well aware of them.
- Don't use certain payment methods – avoid asking for payments by cash-to-cash wire transfer (like Western Union and MoneyGram), by asking for the PIN from a cash reload card (like MoneyPak and Vanilla Reload), or by asking the consumer to create a type of check or money order that requires no signature (these are known as “remotely created check/payment order”).
- Get clear permission to charge the provided payment method – inform the consumer about the amount and timing of the initial and any reoccurring charges.
- Do not hide your telephone number/caller ID – if applicable, also provide your business/organization name. You can read about how to make sure your number is not hidden here.
- Inform the consumer about the nature of the call – you are expected to tell the consumer right away that the call is a sales call or a charitable solicitation.
- Tell the consumer who you represent – if you do telemarketing on behalf of someone else, tell the consumer right away what seller or charitable organization you work for.
- Understand upselling practices – be aware that even if a telemarketing transaction is exempt from some TSR requirements (like when a consumer called you), upselling is not! Upselling is defined as trying to sell additional goods or services during a single phone call, after an initial transaction.
- Avoid robocalling/prerecorded telemarketing messages – don't call any consumer with a prerecorded telemarketing message (robocalling) without his express written agreement to receive such a call, even if he is not on the National Do Not Call Registry. You must provide an interactive opt-out mechanism with the prerecorded message that automatically adds the consumer's number to your own Do Not Call list.
- Keep records – keep any transaction information, written or oral agreements, charge authorization, and records of your telemarketing activity for at least 24 months.
Depeding on state law, if you need to make any recording of a conversation with a consumer to obtain agreements or charge authorization (or for any other purpose) you may first need to request the consumer's permission to make the recording before it begins. To be on the safe side always inform a consumer about a recording.
Text Messaging Requirements
While there isn't a National Do Not Text Registry, what applies is the FCC's Telephone Consumer Protection Act that, among other things, requires getting express and clear written consent for texting a consumer. You can read more about the TCPA and CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices here.