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Monitoring A New Threat to Telemarketing Calls

For several years now, there has been a trend in the United States toward increasingly restrictive telemarketing laws. For the most part, these restrictions have been backed by widespread popular support. The common perception is that these calls need to be reined in. Is it possible, however, that telemarketing rules can go too far, to the point where they actually inconvenience consumers? A recent example shows that this may be the case.

The example involves a petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning telemarketing and the porting of telephone numbers (the transfer of landline numbers to cellular phone services). If the FTC grants the petitioners view, it would be an even greater burden on telemarketers--and very likely, their customers as well.

Key Exemptions for Telemarketing Calls

Even as do-not-call lists and other restrictions on telemarketing sales have proliferated, there have been two key exemptions that have allowed telemarketing calls to continue in certain cases:

  • Where there is a pre-existing business relationship between the caller and the recipient
  • Where the call recipient has provided the caller with a phone number and permission to call

These exemptions not only allow for continued telemarketing sales calls in the above situations, but also for important updates and other communications about an existing business relationship, or about a topic on which the consumer has requested information.

Telephone Porting: A Threat to the Telemarketing Exemptions

As a matter of convenience, many households these days are transferring their landline numbers to cellular phone services. To a large extent, people are opting to have just one phone number that they can take anywhere, and often choose the landline number for this purpose simply because it is their longest-standing telephone number.

A petition before the FTC asks that they interpret telemarketing rules such that the exemptions described above are wiped out when the customer ports a landline number to cellular service. Proponents of continuing these exemptions when a phone number has been ported, such as the Direct Marketing Association, contend that if it had been the consumers intent to opt out of the telemarketing exemptions, they could always do so by other means. Instead, rather than gaining the convenience of rolling an existing landline number into cellular service, customers would now have the inconvenience of having to notify any existing business contacts that they still had permission to call.

So whats a telemarketer to do if this stricter interpretation of the rule is confirmed? Beyond the significant restrictions this could place on business activities as the trend toward porting continues, the most immediate concern would be how a telemarketing caller is to know that a number previously listed as a landline has been ported to a cellular line. Possible workarounds include adding a preamble to the telemarketing script to check whether a number has been ported, or seeking expanded consent from all existing business contacts to be called at previously-provided numbers regardless of the type of telephone service.

Each of these possible solutions would be a little awkward, and the consideration of this petition is just one more example of why so many organizations now rely on professional telemarketing companies to keep abreast of these developments, and find techniques for working through them.


Direct Marketing Association

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