By Angela Garfinkel, President
When our company first started working with associations and membership renewals telemarketing, I was a bit surprised to learn that placing telephone calls to renew professional individual memberships must comply with all telemarketing regulations. I had assumed that because the membership is a professional membership based on the career area of an individual, and because the calls are typically placed to the professional at their work phone number, the calls must be exempt from the consumer telemarketing regulations. I was wrong.
There are four primary areas that associations must be aware of and comply with:
- National Do Not Call regulations
- State-specific Do Not Call regulations
- Association-specific (inhouse) Do Not Call regulations
- Calls to wireless or VoIP phone numbers
Here are the rules that must be applied for membership renewals telemarketing:
Membership Renewals and the National Do Not Call List
If the member has lapsed within the last 18 months, associations do not need to scrub their list against the national Do Not Call list. If the member has been lapsed more than 18 months, then the association is required to remove any phone numbers found on the national Do Not Call database. The good news is that registering for and getting access to the national Do Not Call database is at no charge for non-profits.
Membership Renewals and the State Do Not Call Regulations
If the member has lapsed between 1 day and 18 months, various states require scrubbing against their state-specific Do Not Call list. Some states maintain their own list and some states use the national Do Not Call list as the source.
Here is the state-specific list and the existing business relationship timeframe:
Indiana, New Jersey, Wisconsin: there is no existing business relationship exemption for members once they have lapsed. If an association wants to call members in these three states, the association must scrub against the state-specific Do Not Call list prior to placing membership renewal calls.
Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana: 6 months existing business relationship exemption, after the membership lapses. If an association wants to call any members lapsed more than 6 months in these four states, the association must scrub against the state-specific Do Not Call list prior to placing membership renewal calls.
Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas: 12 months existing business relationship exemption, after the membership lapses. If an association wants to call any members lapsed more than 12 months in these five states, the association must scrub against the state-specific Do Not Call list prior to placing membership renewal calls.
All other states have 18-month EBR exemption for scrubbing against state-specific DNC lists (same as Federal DNC rule).
Membership Renewals and the Association-Specific Do Not Call Regulations
If an individual asks the association to put them on the association’s Do Not Call list (also known as an inhouse Do Not Call list), the association is required to honor the request. It is a best practice to note the request in the Association Management System and to ensure no future calls are placed to the member, lapsed member or prospect at that phone number. Calls are still permitted for service purposes only, but no “sales calls” are permitted to individuals on your inhouse Do Not Call list.
Calls to Mobile Phone Numbers and VoIP Phone Numbers: Special Requirement
Unless your member has opted-in and provided specific Prior Express Written Consent (PEWC) to receive calls from your association on their mobile phone number or VoIP phone number, the call could be deemed a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) if the wrong technology is used to place the call. Requirements for gaining proper PEWC and being able to prove the PEWC are very difficult to comply with and not very practical for most associations, so in general, we recommend that associations do 2 things to ensure compliance:
- Identify wireless and VoIP phone numbers in your call file(s) prior to placing membership renewals telemarketing calls. There are 3 different national databases that are used to identify these numbers.
- Dial the wireless and VoIP phone numbers using a non-Automated Telephone Dialing System (non-ATDS). If you’re making the calls in-house, hand dialing qualifies as a non-ATDS. If you’re using a third party to place your outbound telemarketing renewals calls for you, ask the firm for their non-ATDS legal opinion letter. If they don’t have one, that should be a red flag for you.
While a compliance issue with Do Not Call can cause significant pain if you must respond to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Federal Communications Commission (FCC) civil investigative demand; there is also significant cost and time associated with responding to a state-specific subpoena from an Attorney General. However, the largest risk to associations today is dialing wireless or VoIP phone numbers without PEWC using the wrong technology to dial the phone. The reason is that there is a provision for a private right of action for individuals in the TCPA and this has caused numerous class action lawsuits being brought by vexatious litigators.
More Compliance Issues to Be Aware Of
Those are the “big 4” compliance topics. There are a few other telemarketing compliance topics to be aware of:
- Call monitoring and call recording consent laws
- Call time restrictions
- Holiday restrictions
- Abandoned call restrictions
- Caller ID requirements
- Disclosure requirements
When it comes to compliance with the various telemarketing regulations, there are no short-cuts and it is critical to ensure you understand the rules. At QCS, we make it easier for our clients by putting the requirements for compliance in each program’s Statement of Work. This ensures our clients understand the requirements and what QCS is responsible for to ensure compliance on every phone call.
Angela Garfinkel is the President and Founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization serving the healthcare, financial services, automotive, market research, professional associations and numerous other B2B focused verticals. Angela has the pleasure of leading a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours daily. Angela is also a certified Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) auditor with the Professional Association for Customer Engagement and she is a designated Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP). Angela can be reached at [email protected] or 516.656.5118