“Do Not Call” Rules for Small Business Owners

Do you run telemarketing or call campaigns for your small business? If so, you should make sure you are in compliance with the federal government’s Do Not Call rules.

By now, most Americans should be aware of the National Do Not Call Registry, implemented in 2004 to allow consumers to opt out of receiving telemarketing calls from businesses or third parties trying to sell their goods and services. Telemarketers and merchants are required to search the registry at least once every 31 days and to drop the phone numbers of consumers who have registered from their call list.

It’s important to note that the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 does not block calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors or companies with which a consumer has an existing business relationship. It’s that last, “existing relationship” phrase that many businesses use to justify their use of telemarketing campaigns.

What constitutes an existing business relationship? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the following examples:

  1. A business may call a consumer if that consumer has purchased, rented, or leased the business’ goods or services, or if a financial transaction has taken place between them. The time limitation on this relationship is 18 months after that sale or transaction.
  2. If a consumer hasn’t purchased from you, you can call them only if they have made an inquiry or submitted an application to your company, such as a request for a quote. In these cases you can only call up to three months after the original inquiry.

Make sure your call list is current by these standards.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule includes provisions about marketing to consumers who initiate calls to your business. Many of these incoming calls are exempt from the Rule, but there are restrictions about up-selling during the course of the call.

Some merchants try to get around the Do Not Call rules by purchasing third-party lists of consumers who have opted in to receive calls about the types of products or services they sell. Technically, they do not have an existing relationship with those consumers and the FTC requires that they scrub those lists against the Do Not Call registries.

In addition to the National Do Not Call Registry, many states maintain their own registries. Check your official state website to determine if yours is one of them.

Besides deleting phone numbers on the federal and state Do Not Call registries, the law also requires that you maintain an in-house list of consumers who have opted out of receiving calls from your business. On the plus side, consumers who have provided their written and signed consent to receive calls may be called, even if their number is on a Do Not Call registry.

The National Do Not Call Registry falls under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Additional information about how registry applies to businesses is available. Additionally, information on complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule is available on the FTC’s website. If you have additional questions, consult an attorney.

About the Author:
Beth Longware Duff writes about small business merchant services, including iphone credit card processing.