Sunday, September 6, 2009

Breaking the limits of communication

Voice Broadcasting can be such a great technology for so many applications. It has been a popular and growing tool now for many years and for good reason. Imagine being able to deliver a message to large numbers of people without having to pay the cost of tele agents, and having the ability of sending one message to a live pick up vs. a different message to an answering machine. Add to this the marrying of interactive voice technology where a recipient is able to press a number key and be transferred to a live agent, or place an order for a product or service. It is the ultimate technology in terms of cost efficiencies and flexibility for marketers, political consultants, municipalities, collection organizations, and many other entities.
But powerful tools in the hands of fools create a great deal of danger. See Bob Tuttle and Mark Edwards for details. Their firm "The Broadcast Team" (aka TBT) was recently fined $1,000,000 by the FTC and the Department of Justice for violations Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in the course of using "voice broadcasting" to call millions of U.S. consumers using automated dialers and prerecorded messages.
The Federal Trade Commission today announced that Tuttle and Edwards firm was charged with making tens of millions of illegal automated telemarketing calls and they have agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty under a settlement reached with the agency and the U.S. Department of Justice. They had violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in the course of using "voice broadcasting" to call millions of U.S. consumers using automated dialers and prerecorded messages.
A federal district court action brought by DOJ on behalf of the Commission alleges that the Florida-based telemarketer's automated phone dialing service called and then illegally hung up on more than 64 million people – and called more than a million numbers that were listed on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. Lloyd Gomberg, Senior Vice President of Freedom telework Inc. said “The law is very clear- Even when Voice broadcasting is legally permissible the calling list still must be scrubbed against the FTC and various States Do Not Call Lists.”
Gomberg further noted that Freedom Telework Voice broadcast customers are also advised that it is unlawful to send audio messages to any emergency phone lines. For example, 911 numbers, hospital medical service lines, physicians, health care facilities, poison control centers, fire or law enforcement agencies. Another basic rule according to Gomberg: Do not send unsolicited audio messages to those who will incur charges. For example: beepers, pagers or cell phones unless you have permission.
Gomberg pointed out that when Voice broadcasting is used in a live application where the intent is to play the voice recording only to answering machines and have agents talk with consumers when they pick up, the rules on “Abandonment” are still in place. The TSR limits telemarketers' use of recorded messages by requiring that calls answered by a person be connected to a live representative within two seconds. This restriction on "abandoning calls" by hanging up or playing a recording when someone answers applies to telemarketing calls to solicit sales of goods or services, and to calls from for-profit telemarketers soliciting charitable contributions
According to Gomberg, the 11 basic rules of Voice broadcasting are:
1. Consumer must give prior consent, or
2. Existing Business relationship, or
3. Tax exempt organizations
4. Do Not Call List regulations apply when Voice broadcast is permissible
5. Customer may request addition to your company Do Not Call List
6. Existing Business relationship expires 18 months after a purchase or 90 days after an inquiry or application
7. Allowable to use this application for: Collections, Mortgage Refinance with an EBR
8. Allowable for Non Profits and telemarketing companies working on behalf of non profits, and Charities seeking donations
9. Allowable for Political campaigns, Initiatives
10. Some States have outlawed Voice dialers: Freedom Telework cannot advise on these matters, it is up to clients to check with legal counsel.
11. Informational broadcasts and free offers are prohibited unless the organization is otherwise allowed to broadcast
In the broadcast team case, The FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) was violated in the course of using "voice broadcasting" to call millions of U.S. consumers using automated dialers and prerecorded messages. Many of the numbers TBT called were on the DNC Registry, making the calls themselves unlawful. The FTC also charged that TBT failed to pay for access to the DNC Registry's numbers in numerous instances. TBT had argued that the TSR did not apply to its delivery of prerecorded messages and should not apply to its plans to use prerecorded messages to solicit funds on behalf of a charity. But in a related case pending in the same court, U.S. District Court Judge Anne Conway rejected TBT's legal arguments last April. The court ruled that TBT is a required to comply with the TSR, and that exempting TBT from the TSR's requirements would frustrate the FTC "in achieving its goal of protecting the residential privacy of consumers."
Gomberg said “ This technology is powerful and incisive- just make sure that you consult an attorney and know that you are on firm legal ground before proceeding with a campaign.”

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