Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create or intend to create an attorney-client relationship. This blog post should never be used to replace the advice of your personal attorney.
DNC or Do Not Call List is a federally governed list of consumers who do not wish to receive sales calls. Specifically, the FTC or Federal Trade Commission created, with the help of the FCC or federal communications commission, and now maintain the list to help businesses remain in compliance with Do Not Call Implementation Act of 2003, which was, in turn, implemented to comply with the TCPA or Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The DNC was brought in, in March of 2003, with registration for the list possible from June. The list then saw enforcement from October 2003 and onwards.
How Does The DNC Work?
A consumer who wants to stop receiving telemarketing calls will turn to the DNC. A consumer registers both landline and cell phone numbers to the Do Not Call list in two ways:
They can call 1-888-382-1222 or the TTY number 1-866-290-4236 with the phone they wish to register. These numbers are toll-free, with as many numbers able to get registered as the consumer desires, though, they will have to go through the process each time.
The alternative registration method for the DNC is via www.donotcall.gov. Registration on the website is possible though it requires an email address. If a consumer registers online, they can register three numbers at once.
Before, a consumer would have to go through one of the above methods every five years, though now they only have to register once. A number will stay on the DNC for as long as it is active, or until the consumer requests for its removal. From registration, the FTC advises that sales calls will stop within 31 days, as businesses check the Do Not Call list every 31 days. If a consumer is not sure if their number is on the list, they can call 1-888-382-1222.
How Do Consumers Report Unwanted Calls?
Once a consumer has registered to the DNC list and the 31 day period has passed, a consumer can and should report any telemarketing calls. Reporting gets done via www.donotcall.gov, and the consumer is also encouraged by the FTC to report any numbers the caller asks for a call back on. The FTC does not respond to each report individually, though, does work with other federal agencies to take action against those making illegal telemarketing calls. Along with legal action via federal law, which can lead to fines of $42,530, the FTC also passes the list of reported numbers as part of the consumer complaint to telephone service providers each day, so they can implement them into their call-blocking software.
Of course, if a telemarketer is calling, despite a number being on the DNC list, the caller most likely knows they are breaking the law. These scammers use fake numbers, often using spoofing, which uses a local area code while being in another country. These fake numbers should still get reported to the FTC as it can be possible to trace the number back to the origin of the call.
What Do Businesses Need To Know About The DNC?
As stated above, businesses typically check the DNC list every 31 days, though they must first register before they can do that. A business will contact the FTC via ftc.gov, and then once they are approved, they will need to download the list regularly and then compare its list of planned calls with the DNC list. If a telephone number appears on the DNC list, it should not get called. Businesses can access the list at www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov, where they will need to enter a variety of information to register before they can make use of the DNC list. That personal information includes:
- Company name
- Registered company address
- Contact person’s names
- Contact person’s contact number
- Contact person’s email address
If a third-party company is working on behalf of another business, they must list the company they are working for. With registration complete, the company must select five area codes, for free, to subscribe to. Additional area codes can get purchased at $65 per code. Unlike a consumer, a company’s registration to the DNC is not indefinite. The subscription lasts 12 months and needs to get renewed 30 days before the expiry date. If a company falls under one of the below exceptions, they will not need to pay the subscription fee.
Registering To The DNC List Is Not Optional
A company may decide that registering to the DNC list is too much hassle. With some luck, they may never call a consumer’s number that is on the list. However, whether luck or not, a company does not have a choice. It is illegal for a company to place a call to an area code unless they have subscribed to that area code, and violators will get subjected to the fines outlined above.
Mistakes Can Happen
The FTC does allow for some degree of human error from a telemarketer making sales calls. It can be easy to misdial a telephone number and then end up speaking to a consumer who is on the DNC list. Provided the company has taken the correct measures to avoid breaching the TCPA and thus achieving a safe harbor state, the company will not face penalties. Those measures include:
- Having the necessary procedures for compliance with the telemarketing sales rules written down.
- Ensuring all employees of the company receive training in those procedures.
- Constant monitoring and enforcement of the procedures.
- Maintain an in house DNC list.
- Accessing the National Do Not Call Registry every 31 days, and maintaining records to show this action has taken place.
Exceptions To The DNC
The DNC applies to businesses that make telemarketing calls to offer goods and services. However, not all sales calls get restricted by the DNC list. As part of the DNC list, there is an established business relationship provision. Suppose a consumer makes a business transaction with a company. In that case, whether purchasing an item, using a service, or making a payment, the company then has 18 months to contact the consumer for telemarketing purposes, whether the consumer’s number is on the DNC list or not. However, a consumer does have the right to request not to get contacted.
If no business transaction occurs, but, a consumer has sent an inquiry or application to the business, the company has three months to make telemarketing calls. The same terms as above apply.
Depending on the nature of the business, it may not need to access the DNC list before calling out. The types of calls exempt from the DNC list include:
- Non-Profit Organizations – For a business to fall under a non-profit classification, it must not work to earn profit for itself or its partners. Most commonly, charitable organizations fall under the non-profit classification. These calls can solicit a donation or gift of money, though, if a consumer asks not to get contacted, the business must make a note of the request.
- Calls to pass on information – If a call delivers information that does not push a consumer to purchase a product or service. An example of this is an airline that’s calling out to consumers who book a flight, which gets canceled. If these calls skirt into advertising material, they will breach the DNC list and can get reported for such.
- Calls for carrying out surveys – Calls that get made to conduct a survey or poll, do not have to abide by the DNC list. However, these calls cannot be part of a marketing campaign.
- Promoting a political campaign – If a call is to promote political organizations and not make a sale, the caller does not have to refer to the DNC list.
Though not a type of business, companies that perform telemarketing calls to other companies do not technically need to check the DNC list; however, some smaller registered company owners use their personal numbers to conduct business, though then opt out of sales calls. Though registering a telephone number on the DNC list that gets used for business is not allowed, people still do it. For that reason, it is good practice for a company to always refer to the DNC list before performing business to business calls.
The DNC List Is Not The Only Rule To Follow
The National Do Not Call List is not the only element a business must keep in mind when making telemarketing calls. Some other rules that are important to follow to avoid legal action include:
- Telemarketing calls must not occur before 8 am and after 9 pm.
- Telemarketers must not lie, be abusive, or harass to push the sale.
- Telemarketers must forward their contact details and business name to the consumer’s caller id.
- Telemarketers must state why they are calling.
- Telemarketers must disclose all information as part of their sales pitch on the product or service they are offering.
Read More on California Consumer Privacy Act