This article is for informational use only and should not be seen as legal advice. The information provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge but may contain omissions or mistakes. The writer is NOT a legal professional, and you should consult an attorney who can ensure you remain in TCPA compliance and in compliance with other regulations. We reserve the right to change this content at any time.
You’ve got a great deal on a new product, and you want the world to know it. According to Pew Research Center, 92 percent of American adults own a cell phone, so why not send them a promotional text? Your intentions may be good, but without taking the right precautions, those texts could cost your business millions thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
What is the TCPA?
The federal government passed the TCPA in 1991, which prohibits sending automated or prerecorded marketing calls without prior express written consent. The TCPA also sets restrictions on calls to cell phones.
Since then, businesses across the country have paid restitution for sending illegal calls and texts. In one of the largest TCPA compliance cases in history, Florida-based Caribbean Cruise Line agreed to pay up to $76 million in 2016 following a class-action lawsuit stemming from “robocalls” about a free cruise. Other settlements in recent years have reached $34 million, $45 million and $75 million.
According to WebRecon, TCPA compliance complaints have skyrocketed from 351 filings in 2010 to 4,840 in 2016. For every violation, the Federal Communications Commission can charge an out-of-compliance company up to $18,936 in penalties. That makes for one expensive text.
When done responsibly, automated text or phone messages play an important role in customer experience (CX) strategy. But there are a few things to know before pressing “call” or “send.”
1. Is this a cell phone or landline?
TCPA compliance regulations are similar for both cell phones and landlines, but the few differences are worth knowing.
For instance, organizations may send non-solicitation calls to landlines without prior express consent. But when calling a cell phone, non-solicitation calls using a prerecorded message, text message or automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) require prior express consent, unless the call is for an emergency.
As for solicitation calls, a company can only send prerecorded message solicitation calls to cell phones and landlines if the recipient has given prior written consent.
Plus, landlines are incapable of receiving text messages. So by skipping this step, you’re not only risking a TCPA compliance violation. You may be wasting your resources.
There are two lists to consult to determine whether a number belongs to a cell phone:
- The ported number list (landlines ported to cell phones) maintained by the North American Numbering Administrator
- The cell phone prefix list maintained by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
2. Who’s on the other line?
Even if someone has opted in to your notifications, there’s no guarantee that number is still safe to call. Phone numbers don’t always stick with people for life.
According to the FCC, about 35 million phone numbers are disconnected every year and thrown back in the pool to be reassigned. As many as 10,000 numbers are reassigned every day.
Let’s say John moves from Nebraska to Ohio and gets a new phone number. But he doesn’t update his number with a frequently used airline, from which he bought tickets six months in advance.
His old number is recycled and the airline calls with a prerecorded message about a change in flight plans, but this time the call goes to someone else. That person did not give consent to be called, and suddenly, the company is at risk for a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, John didn’t get a notification that his flight was canceled. The airline could face a penalty and may have lost a valued customer.
Maintaining updated customer data is crucial to both creating exceptional CX and avoiding a TCPA compliance violation, so always follow these steps:
- Confirm your customers’ phone number during interactions with your contact center
- Choose a proactive communication partner that gives recommendations to maintain compliance with the frequently changing TCPA landscape
3. Does this person want to be contacted?
The TCPA instituted numerous requirements and restrictions, including the well-known federal “Do Not Call” registry. But those aren’t the only numbers that are off limits.
As mentioned earlier, someone must give consent before being called or texted by an ATDS or prerecorded message. But the TCPA also requires businesses to allow for an easy opt-out, and they must honor opt-out requests submitted through any other channel, including requests to an agent.
That makes sharing customer data across the enterprise critically important. Fortunately, keeping data out of siloes doesn’t just help avoid TCPA compliance violations. It’s also an important step in transforming your organizational structure to start creating exceptional CX.
Here are two steps you can take to maintain customer preferences:
- Always include an “unsubscribe” option in every call, text or email you send
- Select a communication solution that updates customer preferences in real-time and stores data in a centralized location, no matter what channel the customer used to submit it
Balancing TCPA Compliance Risk with Exceptional CX
Ultimately, the onus on being compliant usually rests with the company that chooses to call or text.
But while there is much to consider about TCPA regulations, automated notifications are a major benefit for CX. These kinds of proactive notifications give customers important information before they go looking for it. So for many businesses, the risk is well worth it, especially if they find a communication technology partner with the ability to proactively reach all their customers and help them stay compliant.
To learn how to reach your customers proactively, read our blog post, 5 Steps to Creating Proactive Engagement Strategies. And watch the webcast at the end to hear more about TCPA compliance from our director of product management.
Automated notifications can be cost-efficient and convenient, but take a lesson from recent civil suits and learn the regulations before pressing “call” or sending that next text.