Telemarketing to portable numbers

The last thing any telemarketer wants to hear a consumer say is, “Why are you calling me at 11pm?” Unfortunately, this is occurring more and more frequently. The use of wireless phones, along with the advent of number portability in 2003, has blurred the once clear connection between area code and geographic region in the US. There is now no guaranteed means by which a given telephone number can be associated or “tied” to a given geographic location.

Cell phones, by their very nature, enable a consumer to move across the US, either temporarily or permanently, without hav­ing to change the area code being used by the phone. At the same time, number portability allows consumers to transfer a landline number to a wireless device, with the same result. Finally, according to at least one authoritative source, number portability also allows consumers to port their landline number from one geographic location to another landline location. In other words, the connection between area code and the anticipated location of a consumer being con­tacted at that area code is growing ever more tenuous. This raises very serious questions with regard to the ability of telemarketers to call consumers in compliance with state and federal calling time restrictions.

What should telemarketers take into con­sideration in developing best practices to han­dle this problem? Astarting point would be querying all databases being called to identify numbers that do not match their associated addresses. The non-matching records should only be called during a “one-size-fits-all” period that would be considered acceptable across most of the continental United States (i.e., noon EST to 8pm EST).

Meanwhile, Rhode Island restricts calls from 9am–6pm EST, Monday–Friday, which would require either a “one-size-fits-all” call­ing time frame of noon EST to 6pm EST, or segregating these numbers and addresses and calling separately.

Perhaps in the future, telemarketers calling wireless devices will be able to identify a per­son’s actual location by pinging a cell phone’s GPS device. However, until the time such technology is ready, telemarketers must do their best to incorporate reasonable best prac­tices to handle our peripatetic population.

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