When we review compliance best practices and the top challenges facing the contact center and collections industry, the number one issue that continues to surface is how to deal with the rising number of consumers who use wireless numbers as their primary point of contact. Telemarketing and collections firms that use automated and predictive dialers to call cell phones face fines of up to $16,000 for any violation of FCC prohibitions against such practices, and the very nature of cell phones make any such calls prone to calling time restriction problems.
The issues facing the industry, however, extend beyond just the high cost of non-compliance with state and federal rules. Despite the increasing reliance on wireless service, Consumers remain extremely sensitive to telemarketing and collections calls on their cell phones. Consumers view their cell phones as more private and personal than land lines, and are therefore much more likely to answer a call to their cell phone.
Not surprisingly, non-personal (i.e., telemarketing and collections) calls to a consumer’s cell phone are even more unwelcome, and generate more complaints, than similar calls to landlines. Adding to the difficulties here is the continued belief by many consumers in the internet-spawned urban myth that a release of all cell phone numbers to telemarketers is imminent - many consumers are in effect primed to complain about such calls. Organizations must therefore employ a proactive strategy to proceed with caution with regard to any contact to a consumer via his/her cell phone.
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1. Calls to cell phones via a predictive or automated dialer are prohibited by the FCC.
2. Any violation of the above is subject to $16,000 per call citation.
3. The FCC has dramatically stepped up enforcement of its wireless calling prohibitions.
4. There are 2 lists you must scrub against: Wireless Block and NeuStar Ported.
5. The grace period for complying with wireless number updates is only 15 days.
6. There are no exemptions for Established Business Relationships (EBRs).
7. Four states have prohibitions on calling cell phones even via manual calling.
Wireless Regulations in the Collections Industry
The FCC prohibits automated and predictive dialer collection calls to wireless numbers, unless the call is made to a person that provided the number during the transaction that led to the debt itself. This actually represents a big step forward for the collections industry - the FCC originally held that any such calls to a wireless number was prohibited unless the consumer provided "express" consent for the call. In response to a petition by the American Collectors Association (ACA), the FCC ruled that a consumer who provides his or her cell phone number on a credit application is "consenting" (albeit in an implied manner) to receive automated debt collection calls. (Collections companies cannot, however, use automated or predictive dialer technology to dial a cell phone number that was already in its database from another source, or a number generated using a data service, such as skip tracing, to identify the number.)
Many legal advisors have recommended that collections firms employ technology to scrub wireless numbers when using automated calling technology, as the burden of proof lies with the company responsible for the calls. Removing wireless numbers via scrubbing of course removes the potential for any liability associated with a call to such numbers.
Alternatively, scrubbing can serve as a means to identify and segregate cell phone numbers before campaigns are launched. By segregating cell phone numbers, a collection or call center can employ best practices to subsequent calls, e.g., limit the number of call attempts in any 24-hour period so as to minimize the potential for frivolous complaints; or, limit the time-frame associated with such calls in a manner that takes into account cell phone mobility. Accurate wireless scrubbing also allows you to identify wireless numbers so that you can either preview or manually dial numbers as per the guidance of your company’s legal counsel.
Questions to consider asking vendors when researching wireless compliance options include:
1. Are you an authorized reseller for the NeuStar wireless ported list?
2. Can you identify carrier wireless number blocks?
3. How often do you update your wireless data?
4. Are you integrated with any dialing platforms?
5. Do you have a web interface with real time reporting?
6. Can the process be automated?
7. How secure is the data provided for scrubbing?
8. Do you have redundancy on your servers and network?
9. Do you guarantee the accuracy of your scrub results?
10. Can you provide links to a landline number or append an address or name when a cell phone is provided?
11. Do you have an API for your services?
These are just some of the questions you should ask a potential vendor - and it’s always a good idea to test out their services first.
About Contact Center Compliance:
Contact Center Compliance is a family-owned company with more than 50 years experience in the teleservices industry. The owners of CCC have operated dozens of call centers in the United States and Canada, staffed by thousands of call center representatives. The mission of Contact Center Compliance Corporation is to provide the tools and information necessary for member users to stay up to date regarding regulatory information and to operate legally.
Published: Monday, March 22, 2010
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