Keeping Up with the Ever-changing Legal Aspects of TCPA Compliance
The call center industry has undergone quite a few changes in the past decade or so — from autodialing technology to cloud-based calling solutions – making operations dramatically easier and more economical for organizations in the marketplace.
From a legal standpoint, however, things have gotten considerably more complicated, with the introduction of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991. As any call center knows, TCPA limits the use of automated equipment to call consumers, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been continually tweaking the rules since the ruling became law in 1992.
The latest regulations were released in July of this year, raising a new round of questions for call centers that want to remain compliant. To assist with deciphering the new rules, we’re offering an exclusive webinar this Thurs., Sept. 24, at Noon MDT on all things compliance. We’ve invited Eric Allen, with ALLEN, MITCHELL & ALLEN, PLLC, to present his industry expertise on TCPA, specifically the new July FCC regulations.
Before our webinar, we took a few minutes with Eric to pick his brain about what drew him to specialize in call center law, what effect TCPA has had on the industry and if he had any sage advice for contact centers in light of recent regulations. Read on for his answers and don’t forget to register for the webinar!
1. Why did you choose to specialize in law for call centers, and how long have you been working in this specialty? I previously worked in sales in Utah call centers for a number of years, but I was always more attracted to the legal and compliance side of the industry. I always wanted to go to law school, too, so I switched careers and have been on the legal side of the industry for more than a decade, spending four years as a paralegal, three years as an in-house law clerk at a large Vegas call center and the last five years as a private compliance attorney.
My law partners and I now represent several hundred call centers, sellers, lead generators and dialer vendors across the country. We handle the compliance side, but we also defend telemarketers in state and federal courts all over the country. Right now, for example, we are defending nationwide TCPA class action lawsuits in the Federal courts of Nevada, Missouri and California, as well as consulting on numerous others. We also represent a lot of smaller vendors that might not be named in the litigation, but are subpoenaed for records or for depositions.
2. What kind of legal changes have the call center industry undergone since you’ve been practicing law? How have these changes affected day-to-day operations in call centers? The biggest compliance game changers – in my opinion – were the creation of the national Do-Not-Call list, which created a significant hurdle for cold callers and then more recently the new cell phone rules, which drastically restrict the use of autodialers, especially given the rise in wireless-only homes.
The recent July 10, 2015, FCC Order was also pretty harsh. But there are solutions!
3. What changes to the TCPA guidelines were put forth in the FCC’s July 10th order? What do they mean for the average call center? The most significant implications of the July 10th FCC order include the expansion of the meaning of an autodialer (ATDS), as well as new rules about reassigned numbers and the revocation of consent. An autodialer now includes software that, even if it can’t autodial now, could be quickly upgraded in order to do so – this is a horrible and irrational law. We are part of a larger organization that is appealing the Order in Federal Circuit Court right now.
The FCC also clarified that callers only get one “free pass” when calling a reassigned number, even if the consumer doesn’t answer and tell you it’s a wrong number. Also significant was the ruling that consumers get to revoke any prior consent at any time and in any reasonable manner, making the managing of opt-outs a little trickier. Again, there are legal solutions to most of these hurdles.
4. What advice do you have (non-legally binding) for call centers that are a little unsure how these recent rulings might affect them? What steps should they take to ensure that they’re abiding by the latest guidelines? Definitely attend the upcoming webinar and stay abreast of TCPA enforcement trends. This is an ever-changing regulatory environment – participate in industry advocacy groups and undergo a compliance audit at your own company. Make sure you understand the law and keep your practices up-to-date. Be nimble and adapt quickly when the law changes.
There are all sorts of other creative risk mitigation techniques that can reduce TCPA exposure – scrubbing against past litigator telephone number lists, using a double opt-in process, excluding higher risk litigation states, having solid indemnity contracts with your vendors, etc.
Our firm also has a number of free web resources available for review, including TelemarketingCompliance.com, TelemarketingLawyer.com, TelemarketingLicenses.com, AutoDialerLaw.com, TCPAlegalblog.com, DoNotCallLaw.com and several others.
We look forward to our presentation with Eric and the many great questions that are sure to follow! See you this Thursday, September 24 at Noon MDT!