FTC amends Telemarketing Sales Rule

The Federal Trade Commission today issued its final Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) amendments regarding prerecorded calls.

Two TSR amendments were passed – one will ban calls that deliver prerecorded messages unless the consumer has first agreed, with written consent, to receive calls. The other modifies the way the maximum permissible level of call abandonment (when a call is placed by a predictive dialer but is picked up before the salesperson is ready) is calculated – from 3% of a company’s daily call volume to the same percentage over a 30-day period.

Allen Hile, assistant director of the division of marketing practices at the FTC, said the amendments came in to response to a petition from telemarketers to allow them to place calls to consumers with whom they had an established business relationship.  “The way [the TSR] was before, the [definition of] ‘established business relationship’ was unclear,” he said, pointing out that the previous rule implied that “if you bought gum, [there was] an established business relationship.”  

He added that the shift in the TSR’s calculation of call abandonment by predictive dialers was implemented to benefit small businesses as well to enable all sellers to target their calling campaigns.

“Many people made the compelling case that a 3% per day [restriction] was a disadvantage for smaller companies with smaller lists,” Hile said.

These provisions do not affect purely informational recorded messages, such as flight cancellations or appointment reminders.

The amendment modifying the method for measuring the maximum allowable rate of call abandonment will become effective on October 1. The amendment requiring all prerecorded telemarketing calls to provide an automated interactive opt-out mechanism will go into effect December 1, while the amendment requiring permission from consumers to receive such calls will go into effect on September 1, 2009.

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