Internet marketing essentials, Part one: building trust

Internet marketing essentials, Part one: building trust

December 28, 2004

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
jim@authtel.com.

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