FCC vs. FTC vs. State Telemarketing Laws

So you’re in the process of researching telemarketing compliance. As a telemarketer, that’s an incredibly important step to take if you want your business to be safe from liability and government action. You’ll want to know about the three main legal entities that regulate telemarketing practices in the United States: the FCC, the FTC, and the state Attorney General’s Offices that enforce state laws.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Soon after Congress created the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the FCC adopted rules to implement it. The commission has been revising and adding rules over much of the last twenty years. Together with the FTC it created a nationwide Do-Not-Call (DNC) registry and a number of associated laws. The FCC’s rules now place several restrictions on telemarketers, including the following:

  • You must get express written consent from consumers before you place a robocall
  • You cannot use a previous business relationship to avoid getting a consumer’s consent
  • Every robocall must include an interactive mechanism to let consumers automatically opt out of future calls
  • You cannot call anyone listed on the national DNC registry (or state-specific registries)
  • You must follow specific rules relating to autodialers and caller ID information

Some of the FCC’s rules have exemptions for certain types of telemarketers, like non-profit organizations. For the most part, however, telemarketers across the United States are beholden to these rules.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC has also been amending its rules for many years. Telemarketers need to be aware of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), as well as the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (TCFPA), in particular. The FTC enforces these key rules (and others) for telemarketers:

  • You must disclose certain types of information
  • You cannot misrepresent or lie about anything related to the purpose of your call
  • You can only call during limited hours
  • You must transmit your caller ID information
  • You must avoid abandoning outbound calls within a “safe harbor” time period
  • Unauthorized billing is prohibited, and there are restrictions on the sale of certain goods and services

The TSR also has added provisions about prerecorded messages, deceptive and abusive practices related to debt relief services, and practices like remote payment orders and checks, cash-to-cash money transfers, and cash reload mechanisms. Many rules apply both to outbound and inbound telemarketing, so make sure you’re absolutely clear on the details.

State Telemarketing Laws

Many states have their own telemarketing regulations. If you’re calling into multiple states, you’ll have to follow the specific state laws applicable in those states. Depending on the scope of your business, there are a wide range of state laws that you may encounter. Examples include:

  • Restrictions on the times you can call (or “curfews”) and restrictions on holiday calls
  • Rules about mandatory disclosures and prohibited statements
  • Rules about caller ID, scripted calls, and prize promotions
  • Recordkeeping requirements
  • Laws preventing or limiting call recording and call monitoring
  • Laws requiring you to provide cancellation rights and internal opt-out procedures
  • General statutes about consumer protection, fraud, and unfair trade practices

Most states now make it necessary for you to get a state telemarketing license or telemarketing bond, before you can call its residents. Whatever your circumstances, make sure you’re familiar with your state’s requirements as well as those in states you call into.

When it comes to telemarketing law, this is just the beginning. To make sure your business follows every requirement, you should enlist the help of a competent telemarketing attorney. Cove Law can provide you with the industry-specific experience needed to keep your business compliant with every applicable law and rule. Give our skilled lawyers a call to understand the essential details of telemarketing compliance.

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Written by Andrew Cove

Cove Law has significant experience defending federal investigations and formal actions by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Board and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as similar matters on the state level by the respective state Attorney General’s Offices and other local agencies.