September 2012: Back to Basics: Your Do Not Call Policy
by Joseph Sanscrainte, an attorney specializing in telemarketing law.
Back to Basics: Your Do Not Call Policy
As someone who has been providing telemarketing compliance advice for well over a decade, it's always surprising to me the number of companies that do not have a written Do Not Call policy. This isn't a "should have" - it's a "must have." The FCC requires all entities to send out their internal Do Not Call policy to any individual who requests it, and as we all know, there are quite a few compliance entrepreneurs who will hold a company's feet to the fire over this issue. In addition, in the event of an investigation by a state or federal regulator, you do not want to be caught without a readily producible policy.
So, let's take a look at the elements of a basic Do Not Call Policy:
1. Introduction. This is the place in the policy where you and your company get to make all kinds of wonderful statements regarding the purity of your intentions when it comes to telemarketing and Do Not Call issues. You can start with "It is Company's policy to comply fully with federal and state requirements regarding telephonic solicitations" and take it from there. The introduction also gives you the opportunity to let the reader know how much you care about actually implement your policy by ensuring that all of your employees read it and sign off on it.
2. In-House DNC: The FTC and FCC require any entity that telemarkets to maintain a list of people who request to be placed on an internal DNC list. This section of your policy should illustrate both the wide scope of your internal DNC request acceptance (you can even give examples of what sort of statements you consider to be valid internal DNC requests), as well as your recognition that internal DNC requests may be received by ANY person in your company and in ANY manner (verbally by phone or otherwise, email, fax, letter, etc.) Finally, you should state how long it takes your company, generally, to honor in-house DNC requests (the Feds give you up to 31 days, but if you CAN do it faster, you HAVE to do it faster.)
3. Fed/State DNC lists: This section gives you the ability to inform an investigator that you are doing everything required under the law to comply with state and Fed lists. For example, for Federal DNC, you can indicate that you only use the list for compliance purposes, you only call into those area codes where you purchased DNC registry information, and you comply with the FTC's rules regarding affiliate/subsidiary registration. For state DNC, you can take the opportunity to let the reader know that you are up to date and compliant with state registration requirements, and that you've paid for all state-level DNC lists as appropriate. Finally, you should spell out the specifics of your DNC compliance process (i.e., you download state and federal DNC list as per all applicable rules, and submit all of your lead lists to Contact Center Compliance for scrubbing).
4. Wireless DNC: The FCC prohibits unsolicited calls made by predictive dialers to cell phones, and there are five states that prohibit ALL sales calls to cell phones. This section gives your company an excellent opportunity to establish your cred on wireless issues by indicating your awareness of these rules, the fact that you comply with them by purchasing wireless exchange and wireless portability information from various sources, and that you have processes in place to ensure that you prevent calls to such exchanges and numbers as appropriate.
5. Distribution Plan: No policy is worthwhile unless it is disseminated to all employees to whom the policy applies, and regulators are very much aware of this. So this section should spell out the steps you take to ensure that all employees as appropriate receive the policy, that they've read and understand the policy, and that they've signed off on it as well.
6. Escalation Plan: What happens when something goes wrong? Who files what report to whom, and how far up the chain of command does the issue go in order to ensure the problem is rectified? There's no hope for maneuvering into "safe harbor" unless you have a workable escalation plan, and this section of the policy gives you the opportunity to provide all the details of it.
What's the point of this article? To once again remind compliance professionals that a robust Do Not Call Policy that contains all of the above elements is the starting-point of ANY telemarketer's compliance program. If you have a policy in place, take a moment to review it against the above information. If you do NOT have a policy in place, well, let's get 'er done!