Fixed Dialing: Telemarketers Taking the Ostrich Approach to DNC Compliance Is a Nonstarter for Enterprises. Refresh Marketing Initiatives to Ensure That the Rules Are Followed and Reach Your Target Audience More Effectively

Article excerpt

It's been roughly three years since the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry legislation went into effect, yet many marketers continue to hide their heads in the sand when it comes to regulatory compliance standards surrounding their outbound initiatives. Two reasons for this avoidance are that some enterprises remain unaware of the laws and of the responsibility businesses have to meet the regulations, while other corporate leaders fear not being able to replace outbound telemarketing dollars. Either way, businesses are beginning to pay the price for refraining from compliance--the FTC has commenced leveling hefty fines on companies that disregard the statutes. Satellite TV provider DirecTV was slapped a year ago this month by the FTC with a stinging $5.3 million penalty, after the Commission charged that DirecTV and the companies it hired to promote its programs had been violating DNC provisions since October 2003.

"My perception is that companies continue to struggle with DNC compliance because either they do not understand the laws or they do not take them seriously," says Matt Taylor, product manager at Interactive Intelligence. As DNC legislation continues to put pressure on outbound telemarketers, companies must educate themselves on how to market within the boundaries of the legislation and focus on appropriately altering their campaigns. This back-to-the-drawing-board approach, although federally mandated, is an opportunity for companies to adjust their telemarketing strategies to meet compliance demands while increasing outbound marketing revenue rewards.

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WHAT IS DNC?

At its core DNC is the result of consumer backlash against telemarketing initiatives that many consider intrusive, annoying, and unwanted. Telemarketers have long engendered the distrust and ire of consumers by contacting consumers using aggressive (and, in some cases, fraudulent) sales tactics, often during what consumers consider inconvenient times of the day and night. Essentially, the National DNC Registry is a list of consumer phone numbers that telemarketers are prohibited from calling. Enacted in 2003 thanks to the amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the DNC list, which covers interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls, is managed by the FTC and is enforced by it, the FCC, and state officials. Consumers can add their home phone numbers, including wireless numbers, to the Registry either by phone or online for free, and their registration will be effective for five years. Since January 1, 2005, telemarketers and sellers have been required to search the Registry at least once every 31 days and to remove the phone numbers of consumers who have registered.

When DNC emerged, many consumers saw it as their line of attack against unwanted telemarketing calls. However, it is important for both consumers and telemarketers to note that DNC registrations do not necessarily mean an end to all telemarketing calls. Rather, the statutes were conceived to help curb the number of marketing calls consumers receive. DNC regulations cover any plan, program, or campaign to sell goods and services over the phone. Exempt from the regulations are calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, or companies that the called consumer has an established business relationship (EBR) with. An EBR exists if a consumer made an inquiry, application, purchase, or transaction regarding products or services offered by the person or entity involved, according to the FCC. The EBR exemption is valid for 18 months after the consumer's last business transaction, or three months after the consumer's last inquiry or application, unless the consumer asks the company not to call again.

DNC isn't just a federal issue. Several states, including Florida and Indiana, have adopted their own DNC lists with which companies must also contend. "The state laws have to be taken very seriously, and in the past a lot of marketers have blown those off," says Eric Holmen, executive vice president of operations and client strategy at SmartReply, a provider of retail voice marketing solutions. …

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