Written by Ernie Cooper
Ruling earlier this week on a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a federal district court judge levied a total of $30 million in fines against two telemarketers for, among other things, placing prerecorded telemarketing “robocalls” to more than 2.7 million people with numbers on the national Do-Not-Call Registry. According to the FTC, this is “the largest penalty ever imposed for unlawful calls to consumers on the Do-Not-Call Registry.” While the fines assessed by the judge also encompassed the fraudulent nature of the calls, the number of calls and the fact that the telemarketers made no attempt to ensure persons on the Do-Not-Call Registry were not called, played a significant role in the decision to impose the fine. A copy of the decision can be found here.
All businesses making telemarketing calls – calls that advertise or are part of a program designed to sell a product or service – are required by both FTC and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to ensure that calls are not placed to persons with numbers on the national Do-Not-Call Registry. This requirement applies to both prerecorded “robocalls” and calls made by live sales operators. While access to the Do-Not-Call Registry requires payment of a fee – currently $56 for each area code of data accessed, up to a maximum of $15,503 – that fee is a real bargain in light of the penalties that may be assessed for failure to use it, which may be as high as $11,000 per call.
Of course, compliance with do-not-call rules is only one part of compliance with FTC and FCC telemarketing rules. For example, the judge in this case also cited the telemarketers for failure to provide called parties an opportunity to opt out of future calls. Time of day, caller identification, and maintenance of a company-specific do-not-call list are just a few of many other considerations for producing a telemarketing campaign that will meet FTC and FCC standards. The large fine assessed by the judge this week underscores the seriousness with which these agencies view compliance with the Do-Not-Call Registry and all telemarketing rules.