After myriad meetings and discussions, a three-year review of rules governing telemarketing, and thousands of consumer comments regarding unwanted telephone solicitations, in 1991 Congress signed the TCPA—the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
This Act placed restrictions on use of automatic dialing systems, pre-recorded messages, and fax machines used for sending telephone solicitations. It also paved the way for establishment of a national database of residential telephone numbers to which telephone solicitations were not to be sent. An unwanted phone solicitation is defined as materials that advertise availability of goods or services that is transmitted to a person without that individual’s permission, or invitation, whether in writing, or otherwise.
The following year, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) adopted the rules of TCPA, but chose not to move forward on a national phone number database. Instead, it opted for company-specific lists of numbers that were not to be called. Not until 2003 was there a single, national database of telephone numbers that consumers ordered were not to receive telephone solicitations. Originally, telemarketers were given up to three months to discontinue calls to registered numbers, and numbers remained on the list for five years. Effective January 1, 2005, telemarketers were required to cease calls to residential numbers within 31 days from the date of registration. Numbers now remain on the list indefinitely.
The Do Not Call Registry is a national database managed by the Federal Trade Commission. There is no need for re-registration, as numbers will appear on the registry indefinitely—until removed by the consumer or when telephone service to that number ceases.
After 31 days following registration, consumers should see a huge impact on the number of unwanted phone solicitations received. It is important to note that telemarketing calls will not stop completely. Organizations with which the consumer has an established relationship may still make unsolicited phone contact. Also, those entities that previously received the consumer’s permission in writing will continue to make telephoned solicitations. Non-commercial calls or those without unsolicited advertisements, and third-parties calling for charities or other tax-exempt non-profit organizations are still permitted.
Registration may be done via telephone or the internet. To register by phone, including wireless numbers, consumers must call from the telephone number they wish to register, and dial 1-888-382-1222 (TYY: 1-866-290-4236). Visit www.donotcall.gov to register on-line.
Business numbers may be registered, but any telemarketing calls to such numbers are not considered unlawful.
The Registry defines “sellers” as companies that provide or arrange receipt of goods or services to customers for payment. Sellers, service providers, and telemarketers are the only types of industries permitted to access the registry database. These entities must do so every 31 days in order to include new registrants.
There is an annual fee for access to the registry’s information. Any entity that accesses the information contained in the registry for any purpose other than for Telemarketing Sales Rule compliance is subject to fines and/or legal action.
Telemarketers and sellers are not permitted to block information that could transmit to consumers’ automated phone answering systems. Thus, a “Caller ID” subscription would allow a consumer the ability to identify and screen calls, including those from telemarketers and other solicitors.
When solicitation phone calls are answered by a live person, sellers and telemarketers are required to ensure that automated dialers will transfer to a live caller within two seconds of the call being answered.
Telephone solicitations to residential numbers are not permitted before 8am and after 9pm.
Solicitors and other sellers must identify themselves to call recipients, as well as the entity for which the call is being placed, and an address or phone number the call recipient may use to recontact the caller.
Company-specific do-not-call lists are available to consumers who wish to discontinue calls received from certain named companies. Further information is available in The Unwanted Telephone Marketing Calls Guide.
Rules set forth by FCC and the TCPA generally disallow most unsolicited faxed ads to any business or residential fax machine. An entity with which a consumer has an established business relationship (EBR) is exempt from rules pertaining to faxed advertising. All senders of faxed solicitations are required to include contact information that allows the recipient to “opt-out” from receipt of future solicitations.
Fax senders must be able to demonstrate that a fax number was obtained with legitimate permission. If an EBR existed, and a recipient’s fax number was obtained before the Junk Fax Prevention Act became law (July 9, 2005), the sender is not required to demonstrate how the recipient’s fax number was obtained.
There is no national do-not-email registry, according FTC. Consumers are advised not to provide email addresses and other personal identification information to any site the claims to be such a registry. If this type of email is received, the recipient should contact FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP. Many senders of unsolicited emails do include an “opt-out,” but for those that do not, and emails still penetrate personal computer SPAM filters, recipients should contact FTC.
In 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act, was passed by Congress to prevent people from sending unsolicited commercial e-mail messages to all types of mobile and wireless devices without express permission of the recipient. The CAN-SPAM Act works along side the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Further information both of these Acts is available at FCC website.
via an electronic complaint form
For complaints to be processed, the electronic form must be filled in completely, or the following information must be otherwise provided:
Consumer’s name and address
the residential telephone number where the solicitation was received
name of the individual or company whose services and/or products were advertised, including any phone numbers
a call description
a phone number provided to allow for “opting-out” of future solicitations
whether a member of the household granted permission to the solicitor
whether an EBR exists with the solicitor