Posted: October 23, 2013
Illicit robocalls are one of the most common causes of lawsuits against companies that conduct telemarketing campaigns. A clear example of this is reflected in a settlement agreed to last month by a large financial institution for the amount of $32 million for allegedly making multiple debt collection calls to the cell phones of consumers who had not provided prior express consent.
This settlement constitutes the largest amount ever paid for violations to the provisions of the Federal Communication Commission’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Even though the financial institution denied the allegations, they decided to settle for the amount of $32 million to avoid additional legal costs.
The majority of the potentially violative calls made by the financial institution contained pre-recorded messages. It is estimated that 7.7 million customers were contacted for debt collection purposes. Given that these pre-recorded messages were mostly delivered to cell phones without the consumers’ prior express consent, multiple consumer complaints arose. Many of the consumers who complained considered the calls to be of a harassing nature given that they were made an excessive amount of times, and at all times throughout the day. A consumer who attested on this case stated that she received 54 calls to her cell phone, and when she asked the institution’s debt collection agents to stop calling her cell phone, the agents refused to do so with the excuse that it was impossible for them to remove her number from the computer system.
This settlement exposes the importance of adhering to the consumer rights and privacy regulations, stipulated by the TCPA and the TSR (Telemarketing Sales Rule). If your company is delivering informational, or debt collection related, pre-recorded messages to cell phones, ensure that these messages are sent to consumers who have provided prior express consent. If your company is sending any commercial pre-recorded messages, ensure that consumers have provided their prior express written consent. You must also ensure you include an opt-out mechanism in all pre-recorded messages.
Furthermore, companies should be aware that consumers may feel harassed if they received too many calls from the same company in a short period of time. Therefore, it is important to implement policies and procedures to determine the appropriate number of calls an agent should make to a consumer, as well as the time of day that is appropriate for these calls. Also, policies about honoring do not call requests have to be developed and implemented; and training the agents on these policies is crucial to minimize the risk of consumer complaints and possible lawsuits that may arise from such complaints.
Juliana Betancur is a Consultant Support Administrator at CompliancePoint. She assists the consulting team with the tracking of new enforcements and regulations. Juliana also assists with a variety of specialty tasks including international compliance projects.