TMCnews Featured Article
November 19, 2012
Clear Permissions Required to Enjoy the Benefits of a Predictive Dialer
By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
In the traditional days of the outbound call center, agents had to manually call numbers on a given list in an attempt to make a connection with the right individual on the phone. If wrong numbers, answering machines or no answer were the result of these calls, time was wasted and the number of completed calls per agent tended to be low. With the introduction of the predictive dialer, however, automation was introduced and changed the speed in which right contacts could be made.
As much as this technology streamlined processes in the call center and telemarketing industries, it also garnered negative attention from consumer advocate groups. This is especially true in the collections industry as some organizations sought to leverage the technology to hound debtors in an attempt to collect payments. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was created to enable prior express consent where debt collections are concerned. In October, a case ruling provided clear interpretation.
According to this Mondaq report, a decision in Meyer v. Portfolio Recovery Associates indicates that creditors and debt collectors must verify that debtors provided cell phone numbers and that they provided this information at the time of the transaction related to the debt. Only then can debt collectors and debt collectors contact those debtors using an automated or predictive dialer. This interpretation was completed by the Ninth Circuit Court.
The same court was presented with the Chesbro v. Best Buy (News - Alert) Stores L.P., and revived a class action suit against Best Buy by consumers who alleged that a series of automated calls via predictive dialer were made regarding the company’s Reward Zone Program (RZP), which violated the TCPA.
A district court ruling had granted summary judgment in favor of Best Buy, while the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision. The appeals court found that the predictive dialer calls were actually unsolicited advertisements, solicitations via telephone and telemarketing, which violated the TCPA.
In general, the TCPA makes automated calls to residential phone lines unlawful when prior consent of the called party is not provided. Calls not of a commercial nature are exempt. Dual purpose calls, or those that have a marketing component in combination with information or customer service are also prohibited without prior consent. In the Best Buy case, the electronics retailer claimed its calls were purely information.
This case offers great insight for those companies offering rewards programs and the approach they should take to protect their methods. Reward and incentive programs should be offered to customers separate from other transactions and include clear opt-ins that notify the consumer that they will receive calls, SMS text messages and other communications and information and advertising purposes. Without it, the predictive dialer could play a part in a class action case.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein