There are some things that people should probably ignore; like bad advice, things they can’t control, and doubts and fears that prevent them from doing good things. There are some things that people wish they could ignore; like the barking dog at 3 o’clock in the morning, the 6-year-old asking relentlessly for candy, and the nutrition info of the delicious donut. And then there are those things that people should not ignore, but do. One of those things is the TCPA, or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Despite the recent buzz about the TCPA and the FCC’s Ruling back in July 2015, some financial institutions have been ignoring their TCPA risk assessment and compliance measures, perhaps based on some faulty assumptions.
Financial institutions may have a variety of excuses for why they think they don’t need to worry about their phone call compliance. And while it’s true that maintaining perfect compliance can be very tricky given all the different types of communication technology we use, institutions should not make the mistake of thinking TCPA rules don’t apply to them.
Here are six things you need to know about the rule so you can keep your compliance up to date.
The FCC defined an “autodialer” as a phone that has the ability to store, produce, and dial random or sequential numbers, even if that is not what the phone is currently being used for. They later expanded that definition to include any phone that could be modified or reconfigured to include those features. Which means that if you have a working telephone at your financial institution, whether or not you think of it or even intend to use it as an autodialer, the rule still applies.
Despite the term “robocall” popping up repeatedly in the text of the rule, the rule applies to calls made by live persons as well.
3. Landline vs. Mobile
Don’t depend on your customers to accurately indicate if they will be receiving calls on a landline or a mobile phone. The TCPA differentiates between calling a landline and calling or texting a mobile phone. Sometimes individuals will correctly mark whether their number is a “home” or “cell” number, but with an increase in consumers using their mobile phone in place of a land line, you can’t depend on them to correctly label what kind of phone they’ll be answering your calls with.
If you are going to make assumptions about the types of phones your members use, it is safer to assume every phone you call is a wireless phone. The rule sets higher standards for mobile phones than for landlines, so if you assume it is a wireless phone, you’ll be covered.
The FCC ruling states that a person “may revoke consent at any time and through any reasonable means,” and that your institution “may not limit the manner in which revocation may occur.” So, even if you’ve received TCPA-compliant prior express consent from a person to make calls and texts, there’s no guarantee that person hasn’t recently revoked that consent. They could have walked into a branch earlier that morning and said to a teller, “I don’t want any more calls or texts,” or they might have left a voicemail saying the same thing. The point is that any future calls or texts to that person violate the TCPA consent requirements. It’s essential that you train all your employees on TCPA requirements.
5. Third-Party Vendors
You are responsible for any outside vendors who call individuals on your behalf. Unfortunately, many third-party contracts explicitly absolve the third party from liability for TCPA violations. Since it’s almost impossible to monitor and control your outside vendors’ interactions with your members and customers, you may want to examine your third-party vendor contracts and make sure they are not another risk point for TCPA liability.
6. Text Messages
All these same rules apply to sending out text messages. If you treat text messages as if they were calls, and direct your compliance measures accordingly, you’ll be on the right track in protecting yourself from TCPA liability.
As you can see, TCPA requirements are fairly involved, and should be taken seriously. If they aren’t already, they should be included in your risk assessments. Fines start at $500 per call, and for willful violations, you could pay up to $1500 per call. If you think you can rely on your insurance to cover your TCPA costs, you’d better double check. Many insurance policies exclude coverage for TCPA violations. If you do the math, you’ll find that $500 per call starts to add up quickly. There are so many compliance threats out there that it’s easy to put this at the bottom of the list, or to forget about it. But it’s much better to be aware of the risks and take appropriate measures before the FCC comes knocking.
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