The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Report and Order 12-21 (Order 12-21), issued in February 2012, describes revised telemarketing rules that became effective during the past 12 months.

The FCC’s telemarketing rules are issued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and apply to a telephone call to a residential landline or wireless number or a text message that is initiated for advertising or telemarketing purposes and uses an “automatic telephone dialer system” (ATDS) or an “artificial or prerecorded” voice message.

The three major changes implemented during the past year are:

(i) Abandoned calls rule effective November 16, 2012: Telemarketers must ensure that no more than three percent of calls answered by a person are “abandoned” (i.e., not answered by the telemarketer within two (2) seconds after the called person answers) during a 30-day calling campaign period;

(ii) Opt-out mechanism effective January 14, 2013: Artificial or prerecorded telemarketing messages must include an automated, interactive mechanism that enables the called person to opt out of receiving future prerecorded messages; and

(iii) Prior express written consent rule effective October 16, 2013: “Prior express written consent” (as described below) of the called person is required[i] for:

  • telemarketing calls to a wireless telephone number when an artificial or prerecorded message or ATDS is used;
  • telemarketing text messages sent using an ATDS; or
  • telemarketing calls to a residential landline telephone number using an artificial or prerecorded message.

“Prior express written consent” means a written agreement signed by the called person that clearly authorizes delivery of advertising or telemarketing messages using an ATDS or an artificial or prerecorded voice message and clearly states that agreeing is not a condition of buying any product or service.  A written agreement may be “signed” electronically using any method recognized under the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act) or applicable state contract law.  The E-SIGN Act recognizes a signature as an “electronic sound, symbol or process” that is “attached or logically associated with” an agreement and “adopted by a person with the intent to sign.”

Although industry standards have required express opt-in consent for recurring text messaging programs prior to implementation of the FCC’s prior express written consent rule, consent obtained under the old regulatory framework is not sufficient under the new FCC consent rule because (among other requirements) the “agreement” to which the consumer consents (i) must include reference to use of automated technology and (ii) “must be obtained without requiring, directly or indirectly, that the agreement be executed as a condition of purchasing any good or service.”

Action Step for Marketers: Obtain New Opt-in Consent for Telemarketing and Mobile Marketing

Obtaining new opt-in consent consistent with the requirements of the new FCC consent rule is best practice because the sender bears the burden of proving that it has obtained prior express written consent that meets the FCC standards.  Relatedly, implementation of a record-keeping system through which evidence of compliant consent is retained for at least three years (i.e., the statute of limitations for contract claims) after the consumer opts out or after sending the last text message related to the consumer consent.

Read “Part 1:  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Amendments.”

[i] The FCC does not require prior express written consent for non-telemarketing calls and health-care-related calls subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that are made to residential lines but prior express consent is required for such calls or text messages made/sent to wireless telephone numbers.