1. Know and understand the laws which apply to you. Be aware of both the national and local telemarketing rules which apply to your call center. Which particular laws apply will depend on a variety of factors, including who you call, how you dial, what you sell, etc. For example, some telemarketers do not realize that they may be subject to the laws of every state which they call into. Frequently check for changes in applicable laws and telemarketing regulations. Changes can often be discovered by consulting government websites, industry publications, a telemarketing law firm, and your legal counsel. Free legal information about telemarketing compliance can be found at telemarketinglawfirm.com and telemarketinglawyer.com.
2. Create a compliance plan. Have a strategy for how you will comply with applicable laws. This often means having an internal telemarketing compliance policy/manual for your call center. Your plan should spell out your policies and procedures, and should document how you meet the various elements of the "safe harbor" defense.
4. Manage consumer complaints promptly. Bend over backwards to immediately resolve complaints to the consumer's full satisfaction. Often it is complaints which generate lawsuits and investigations, rather than actual violations. If you keep people happy, they will not complain. If no one complains, regulators usually won't pay attention to you. Make the angry consumer happy, even if they are in the wrong. Apologize, make it right, assure them that you will not bother them again, and don't let them hang up mad. Angry consumers usually just want their voice to be heard and respected.
5. Immediately respond to and resolve attorney general letters and other government inquiries. Ignoring an attorney general letter will not make it go away. Respond within the deadline they provide. If you need extra time to reply, ask for an extension. Fully investigate the allegations. If you need to, reach out to the consumer whose complaint triggered the investigation - make it right. Be honest with regulators and treat them with respect. Realize that whatever information and documents you provide to regulators might be used against you if they decide to bring an enforcement lawsuit. If there is any chance that there has been an actual violation of law, consult with your legal counsel before responding.
6. Obtain all necessary state telemarketing licenses and comply with all do not call laws. Perform a state-by-state analysis to determine which local licenses you need and which local DNC lists you will need to obtain and scrub against.
7. Never rely on your vendors, lead suppliers, or affiliates for your own compliance. Do your due diligence on the companies you choose to work with. Only work with legitimate partners who have a proven track record of good legal compliance.
8. Make sure that your scripts are compliant. Depending on which states you call into, various mandatory disclosures and other rules will apply.
9. If possible, avoid high-risk campaigns such as: calls to consumer cell phones; calls to vulnerable groups such as the elderly and financially distressed; and prerecorded messages (robocall) campaigns. Know the recent popular targets of the FTC and AGs. Some examples of recent regulatory pet projects involve targeting companies who operate in the following industries: foreclosure relief; debt relief; home-based business opportunities; government grants; timeshare resale; and short-term loans.
10. Make telemarketing compliance a priority. Make sure that your partners, affiliates, agents, and customers know that you place a high value on telemarketing compliance. Invest up front to set up your compliance infrastructure and then keep compliance a priority going forward. This will save you money in the long run because regulatory mistakes cost big money. The potential fines and other penalties are significant.
IMPORTANT: Telemarketing compliance is complex. Adhering to these tips will not ensure compliance. This information is not guaranteed to be complete, up-to-date, or accurate. This is not a substitute for legal advice. Always consult with your call center's legal counsel before making compliance decisions.