For everyone in the collections business, the ability to contact those who are past due on their obligations is essential. That’s why close scrutiny must be paid to the regulations of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) regarding their mandates under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as it is continually being amended.
Thus, the publication in the Federal Register recently, of the FCC’s amended rules that spell out the dates on new rules for contacting people on their wireless devices, is something to take note of.
The clock is ticking
With publication in the Federal Register, the clock has started ticking on the following:
- Amendments to 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(7) pertaining to abandoned call requirements are effective November 15, 2012.
- New subsection 47 CFR 64.1200(b)(3), which requires prerecorded telemarketing messages to include an automated opt-out mechanism, is effective January 14, 2013.
- The amendments to 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(2) and (3), including the requirement to obtain prior express written consent for autodialed telemarketing calls to cell phones and prerecorded telemarketing messages sent to residential telephone numbers, are effective October 16, 2013.
In addition, it should be noted that the requirement to provide an automated opt-out mechanism during abandoned call messages is outlined in subsection (a)(7) rather than subsection (b)(3); therefore, according to the Federal Register notice, the requirement becomes effective on November 15, 2012.
This date applies only to call abandonment rate calculations, not the automated opt-out requirements for abandoned call messages.
While it is advisable to check with your attorneys as to exactly how this may affect your business, reality is that with more and more people having their primary means of contact being their wireless telephone number, you need to be careful. Understanding what constitutes consent to contact somebody regarding wireless devices, including the broadcasting of pre-recorded messages and autodialed telemarketing calls from live operators using predictive dialers, needs to be headed.
It is not over
The creation of Do-Not-Call lists and defining precisely the rules of engagement has been a topic of contention between the telemarketing and collections industries and regulators since TCPA was adopted in 1991. The rules for this have been evolving, much of them as a result of the industry finding innovative ways to get around certain prohibitions – and while the latest amendments provide further clarity, don’t think for a minute that the battle is over. It’s not.
As John Tallarico, vice president of Product Management for SoundBite Communications (News - Alert), points out in a posting on insidearm.com, there are several significant petitions before the FCC, seeking even more clarification. They all raise interesting issues, ranging from the ability of cargo shippers to use autodialed alerts regarding delivery status, to the actual definition of what is an “automatic dialing system” based on how it might be used to when during a call an agent can use a pre-recorded voice versus their own.
This all may sound like they’re way too deep into the minutia of business practices, but if you think about the cargo one, for example, I’d be troubled if I could not get automated information on where a package containing critical information might be, if I were a consumer.
Tallarico ends his posting by saying, “Stay tuned…there is never a dull moment in the wild and woolly world of regulators.” He makes an interesting observation. However, nobody said providing consumer protection was going to be a static thing, and finding the right balance between industry interests and properly protecting consumers from unwanted intrusions/harassment is not easy.
The bottom line is forewarned is forearmed. The dates are now in place and everyone needs to get educated as to their impact.
Edited by Braden Becker