The Difference Between State and Federal “Do Not Call” Registries

Every telemarketing company should know about the federal Do Not Call registry (DNC). Designed to protect United States residents from invasive telemarketing practices, the list allows residents to sign up and opt out of commercial telephone calls. US telemarketers are legally prohibited from placing calls to the telephone numbers on this list. Following an authorization from Congress, the registry was created and implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Telemarketers must also make themselves familiar with the distinct state-specific laws and regulations related to the national DNC, as well as any additional state registries that may exist.

The Federal DNC Registry

The Do Not Call registry applies nationwide, so any telemarketers soliciting US residents should be aware of the list and its implications. Anyone can register to be on the DNC list for free. Most telemarketers should not place sales-related phone calls to numbers that have been on the list for the prior 31 days. If they do, registrants can file a private action or can file a complaint on the National DNC Registry website, leaving the telemarketer open to potential penalties. A fine of up to $16,000 per call can be applied to those who violate the law.

Examples of State-Specific Regulations

Most states conform to the rules outlined by the federal DNC registry. In those states, residents only have to place their names on the national DNC list, and a state department will help to enforce the national laws. That means telemarketers who don’t observe the list may risk additional penalties and fines from that state. For example, telemarketers in New York state can receive fines of up to $11,000 per incident, as well as any fines imposed by the FTC or the FCC. The following states mainly follow the nationwide DNC regulations, but with a few variations of their own:

  • California: Unsolicited text messages are subject to state restrictions.
  • Rhode Island and North Dakota: State law specifically prohibits telemarketers from sending unsolicited commercial text messages to residents on the national DNC list.

Other states maintain their own do not call registries in addition to the federal DNC list. Telemarketers in these states must comply with both registries. Examples include:

  • Florida: In order to stay on the state DNC list, residents must register their numbers every five years (though their names remain on the federal list permanently).
  • Indiana, Missouri, Louisiana, and Oklahoma: Prohibit both commercial phone calls and text messages to numbers on the state DNC list.
  • Tennessee: Allows residential and personal wireless telephone numbers, as well as the numbers for state government entities, to be added to the statewide list.
  • Texas: Maintains two state DNC registries—one for residential and mobile numbers (for any unsolicited calls and messages) and one for businesses (only for telephone calls related to the customer’s chosen retail electric provider).

When telemarketing companies place unwanted calls, including “robocalls” or automated phone calls, they can face three possible consequences.

  1. They can receive federal penalties like warnings, citations, and fines;
  2. They can face civil lawsuits brought by state attorneys general on behalf of state residents;
  3. They may be sued privately by individuals.

If you have any concerns about telemarketing compliance, or if you’re facing legal actions as a result of your telemarketing practices, you should seek professional legal counsel. Contact Cove Law to get the industry-specific knowledge you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve.

Andrew Cove
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