By Becker, Kristine M.
ABA Bank Marketing , Vol. 39, No. 4
These days it's faster and cheaper for bank marketers to communicate with customers and prospective customer using telephones, facsimile machines and e-mail--rather than direct mail, Unfortunately, from a compliance point of view. it's also riskier. If your financial institution employs telephone. fax or e-mail marketing, you need to be aware of three federal laws:
* The National Do-Not-Call Act.
* The Junk Fax Prevention Act.
* The CAN-SPAM Act.
Ignoring these laws could subject your institution to lawsuits and fines.
Let's look at the National Do-Not-Call Act. which created the National Do-Not-Call Registry in 2003. The registry is enforced through a joint effort of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although the FTC is the primary agency that enforces the registry, the FCC is the agency that has jurisdiction over banks. The purpose of the registry is to allow consumers to register their residential or mobile telephone numbers in a central database if they do not wish to receive advertising calls from businesses. As a result, companies must now subscribe to the registry and scrub their calling lists against the numbers contained in that database before making a telephone call for the purpose of inducing a consumer to purchase, rent or invest in property, goods or services.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Calls that are not made for the purpose of soliciting goods or services are exempt, as are all calls made by political organizations, tax-exempt entities and telephone surveyors. Telephone calls to persons with whom companies have personal relationships (such as family members, friends or acquaintances) are also exempt. With a few exceptions, most telephone calls to businesses are exempt. In addition, if a company has an "established business relationship" (EBR) with a consumer or has obtained the signed written consent of a consumer authorizing such calls, the company is allowed to call that consumer.
What is an EBR?
An EBR means that the consumer has made a purchase or conducted another transaction with a company in the past 18 months or has made an inquiry or application regarding the company's products or services in the past three months. If a financial services or other type of company can demonstrate that it has an EBR with a consumer, the company may call the consumer even if the consumer's telephone number appears on the registry, at least until the consumer specifically requests not to be called again. If a consumer makes such a request, the company is required by law to place the consumer's telephone number on an internal list maintained by the company. (Internal do-not-call lists are discussed below in more detail.)
Accessing the National Do-Not-Call Registry
After a company determines that it will be making telephone solicitations to consumers and that the calls are not exempt, the next step is for the company to access the registry every 31 days (at www.ftc.gov). In fact, making telephone solicitations without accessing the registry is a violation of federal law by itself. In other words, if a company is making telephone solicitations to a particular area code and the company fails to access that area code in the registry to check whether a telephone number is listed, the company has violated federal law (even if it turns out that the telephone number is not listed on the registry) and may be subject to penalties.
Although a company may obtain five area codes for free, the FTC charges an annual fee of $62 for each additional area code requested, with a maximum annual fee of $17,050 for the entire U.S. database. Companies that make low-volume telephone solicitations are permitted to check a small number of telephone numbers (10 or less) for free through the FTC's website. …