I continue to read with disbelief the number of TCPA lawsuits that are either in play or are now being settled for staggering amounts of money (we might reach a new record $76m settlement this year). This is a difficult pill to swallow because the early warning shots from the FCC were fired way back in 2013, but there is still evidence that a fair number of large brands are still not fully compliant with TCPA regulations.
I won’t assume that everyone reading this is familiar with TCPA laws, so I’ll provide a brief history. In 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), creating the Do Not Call registry to provide consumers with the choice to opt out of receiving telemarketing offers. As mobile usage continued to grow, there was a growing need to protect consumers from receiving unsolicited marketing calls on their mobile devices. So, in 2013, the law was expanded to prohibit companies from calling mobile numbers with the use of auto dialers. For outbound marketers, the first line of defense was to scrub out known mobile phone numbers to mitigate the risk of accidentally loading a mobile number and calling it via an auto dialer. Today, if you are in violation of TCPA laws, the stakes are high – fines range from $500-$1500 per call or text. These heavy fines make legal action worthwhile for ambitious lawyers and opportunistic consumers, as instanced by the 45% increase in TCPA lawsuits between 2014 and 2015. (Want to see a list of Class Action settlements? Click here and search “TCPA”).
Across industries, the brands affected and settlement amounts are far from insignificant. As we near the end of 2016, TCPA compliance continues to evolve, and the risks are ubiquitous. While understanding that phone line type is the foundation of any compliance program, it is important to consider other steps to take to help mitigate the risk of TCPA litigation:
- Work with your compliance team to develop a comprehensive strategy to receive express written consent from your customers and prospects. The language should include consent to receive calls or texts from the marketer even if it is a mobile number.
- Right Party Contact: Make sure you can associate an identity to the mobile numbers that you are contacting. Our clients are now telling us that they are hearing consumer responses like, “that is not me,” and “where did you get my number?” The FCC says the marketer is responsible for calling the right person at the time of the call. If you cannot ascertain the phone owner, there are risks associated with calling that number.
- Perform regular maintenance on the phone information in your CRM database to identify mobile and non-fixed VoIP numbers, which should be treated the same as a mobile number. This maintenance will help to flag any landline numbers that may have been ported to mobile numbers, or any numbers that are no longer assigned to the original consumer that provided you with consent.
- As part of any comprehensive TCPA solution, you should have real-time access to an authoritative source of phone number data to understand line type and phone ownership and to help confirm that you are contacting the consumer who provided consent. Whitepages Pro is the leading source of all phone ownership data in the United States and Canada and provides data like line type and carrier globally. The Reverse Phone API returns the name, address, carrier, line type, and other metadata to help you create business rules on how to handle phone numbers to reduce TCPA compliance risk.
Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only. Please communicate with your legal team before implementing any TCPA compliance procedures