The compliance controversy--Part one: How to register with the FTCJim HamiltonDo Not Call list, regulations, registration, compliance, Federal Trade Commission Registering your business with the Federal Trade Commission's Do-Not-Call (DNC) list is a fairly easy process (kudos to the FTC for making it so). By now, we should all know why registration is important. The confusing part is where to go, what to do, and how to do it! This article will help clear the path for the beginning of your journey into the strange new world of FTC compliance. Step one Visit www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov and click on the registration link that reads, "Please register your organization here." (You can also find this page through the FTC's Web site at www.ftc.gov.) Have the following information handy: *Your organization's name, address and telephone number; *Your Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number; *Under the heading "Organization Function," select "seller" because you are, after all, in telephone sales; "As your company's authorized representative, you will need to include your name, phone number and a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address is placed in the box marked "Rep. E-Mail Address." *If you are electing to use a service provider to help you maintain your DNC compliance, then in the box marked "Downloader E-mail Address," insert your service providers e-mail address (ask your service provider which e-mail to usethey may have a separate one established for this purpose), or if you are going to be managing the DNC list in-house, enter the e-mail address that will be used to accept DNC registrations from your customers. Step two After successfully creating your profile, the system will open a Web page that assigns an organization ID number, your representative password, and your download password (which your service provider will need to download numbers for you). Print this page! These codes are important. Step three Verify your e-mail address via the link sent by the FTC. Now you are ready to sign up for your five free area codes. There is an annual fee of $40 per area code exceeding the initial five. Step four Click on the "Manage/Renew Subscriptions" link and enter your organization ID and representative password to log in. Click on "Order Area Codes for Your Current Subscription." Here you can choose to sign up for the entire U.S. for $11,000, a specific state (or states), or pick and choose which area codes you need (e.g. to cover a regional territory). Again, each area code over the initial five will be billed at $40 each. Once you have chosen your area codes, you will be asked to confirm your order. You will be sent to another page that says "Subscription Complete." Print this page. This page contains your SAN number, which tells you when your subscription will need to be renewed. You and/or your service provider will need this information. From here, you can also reach a link to a printable receipt by clicking on your order number. Step five You are now ready to download lists of numbers from the FTC. You can either download separate lists by area code or one large list, depending on which is easier for you to manage. Managing these lists can be difficult (again, it is easier to outsource this need), but in either case, you need to find a way to check the numbers you wish to call to see if they are any on the DNC lists you have downloaded. It is possible to check a handful of numbers at a time on the FTC's Web site, but this is time-consuming and cumbersome. Plus, if you mistakenly call a wrong number, it will be difficult to prove that the call was made in error and not part of your company's standard operating procedure. Your service provider should keep a call/audit trail for you, which would include records of numbers that have been checked. Should you mistakenly call someone on a DNC list, this call/audit trail provides the FTC and state attorneys general with proof that you do check numbers and the call was simply an isolated error. Making calls While you can register with the FTC and check numbers in-house, unless you are a large company making thousands of calls per week (even though they can afford to handle it in-house, it doesn't make it any better of a system), it may be more cost-effective to outsource this function to a company that will update DNC lists every month for you and provide a Web page that allows you to quickly and easily access and check the DNC lists. These sites should also allow you to check entire lists of numbers at one pass. If you check numbers in-house and make any calls to states with separate DNC lists, remember that you will need to buy those lists as welland make sure they are up to date. For example, Missouri's state list is mailed in CD form. So, on top of checking national numbers through the FTC, numbers must also be checked against individual state databases. A service provider should be able to bundle those DNC call lists, including in-house DNC lists, to make the whole process of checking numbers run smoothly. In addition, it is the responsibility of a comprehensive service provider to act as your "eyes and ears," keeping you aware of new laws and regulations as well as helping comply with all of the old laws that can still land you hefty fines. A broad view of the process makes it easy to see why many companies have chosen simply to ignore DNC regulations. The laws are confusing and can be difficult to understand. For instance, in Minnesota, the law says that one exception to the rule occurs when the call is part of a transaction that involves a face-to-face sales presentation. Some have mistakenly interpreted this to mean that if you are calling someone to try to set up an appointment, you don't need to check numbers. Not true! The fact is that you must not call numbers registered on the national DNC list, even if you are calling to set up a face-to-face appointment. Confusion around national DNC regulations is rampant. Additional FTC regulations, such as banning the blocking of caller ID information or using a prerecorded message to make outbound phone calls, make the waters even murkier. Even relatively minor errors that can be easily overlooked can result in a large fine once you have called the wrong person. Calling someone who knows their rights and who would happily turn you in for disturbing their breakfast, lunch, dinner, nap or relaxing time is inevitable. Even companies who go above and beyond in their efforts to comply with new regulations must be careful. For the majority of companies, outsourcing the task to a compliance specialist is the best answer. Jim Hamilton is marketing manager for Authtel LLC, a company specializing in permission-based telemarketing and compliance with DNC regulations. He can be reached at (888) 849-5207 or e-mail [email protected].