More and more businesses are engaging potential customers via telemarketing. With this comes the growing risk of contacting consumers who have not provided proper TCPA consent. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") protects consumers against the receipt of certain unsolicited telemarketing calls and text messages. A business that violates TCPA regulations faces fines of up to $1,500 per unauthorized call or text. These violations can get extremely expensive in the case of class actions, which often involve multiple alleged violations against thousands of consumers.
TCPA Express Written Consent
One TCPA requirement that businesses often misinterpret is the need to collect prior express written consent from consumers. Informational and debt collection calls only require prior express consent. However, telemarketers are held to a more stringent standard of TCPA consent - prior express written consent. As defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), "prior express written consent" is a written agreement between the caller and the call recipient that clearly authorizes the caller to deliver "advertisements or telemarketing messages using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial pre-recorded voice." Please note that, in addition to traditional "wet signatures," consumers may provide prior express written consent via electronic signature or over the phone. Businesses should follow a checklist to ensure that written consent is TCPA-compliant. A non-exhaustive checklist follows below.
TCPA Consent Basics Checklist
- Express consent
A consumer must clearly articulate how he or she is providing consent. E.g., "By clicking 'Agree and Accept,' below, I expressly consent."
- Identify the seller or marketer
The business must be clearly identified by either its full company name or registered d/b/a.
- Marketing partners
If the business has subsidiary or marketing partners that will call and/or send text messages, they need to be identified.
- Automated call
If the business is using an automated telephone dialing system ("ATDS"), it must let the user know that calls/text messages will be sent using an ATDS.
- Not a condition to purchase
The business is required to inform the consumer that he/she does not have to provide consent in order to make a purchase or sign up for an offer.
- Call-to-Action Button
The TCPA consent language should be followed with a call-to-action button that says "Agree and Submit," by which a consumer can indicate that he/she is providing consent to the receipt of telemarketing communications by clicking the button.
- Unpopulated check boxes
Best practices dictate that an unpopulated check box be placed above or next to the call-to-action button. The consumer should be required to click on the check box before clicking on the call-to-action button.
- Font size and color
Font size should be large enough so that the average consumer can easily read the language. The color of the print should be clearly visible and should not be in "greyscale."
- Location of "Express Consent"
The express consent language should be located below the form where the consumer input his/her phone number, and above the call-to-action button.
- Consent language only
Only language that pertains to TCPA consent should be included.
Protect your Business by Obtaining TCPA Consent
In TCPA disputes, telemarketers bear the burden of proving that a clear and conspicuous disclosure was provided and that consumers unambiguously provided TCPA-compliant consent for the receipt of automated telemarketing communications. Adhering to the non-exhaustive checklist contained herein is one of the many ways for companies to safeguard against the many lawsuits filed in this space.
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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.