New Rules

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  April 30, 2012

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

There have been several significant developments of late related to regulation as it applies to the customer interactions solutions space – some good and some (if you’re in this industry, anyway) not so good.

Let’s leave the best for last.

In what could create new headaches for markets, the Federal Communications Commission recently made changes to its telemarketing rules in an effort to “further protect consumers from unwanted autodialed or prerecorded calls.” The FCC (News - Alert) reports that unwanted telemarketing calls and texts were consistently in the top three consumer complaint categories at the FCC last year. 

The new rules require telemarketers to obtain prior express written consent, including by electronic means such as a website form, before placing a robocall to a consumer; eliminates the “established business relationship” exemption to the requirement that telemarketing robocalls to residential wireline phones occur only with prior express consent from the consumer; requires telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive opt-out mechanism during each robocall so that consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling; and, strictly limits the number of abandoned or dead air calls that telemarketers can make within each calling campaign. Informational calls, such as those related to school closings and flight changes, appear to be exempted from this.

Meanwhile, the push to discourage call center offshoring seems to be gaining steam. A March press release issued by the Communications Workers of America trumpets the fact that “bi-partisan support on Capitol Hill for legislation that bans federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs from the U.S. overseas grew to over five dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

CWA (News - Alert) says that more than 40 members of both parties have signed on to the bill in the last few weeks alone, and that more are expected to do the same in short order.

“Republicans and Democrats alike understand this bill is a dose of bi-partisan common sense at a time when such measures are in short supply in Washington,” says CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, who began his career in a Maryland-based Verizon (News - Alert) call center.

Collins adds that “Lawmakers of all stripes from around the country agree that there should be consequences for shipping good American jobs overseas while so many here at home are looking for work. They get the idea that only companies that create American jobs should get American taxpayer dollars.”

As discussed in my Logout column in the January/February issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, the proposed legislation was introduced by U.S. Reps. Tim Bishop (D, NY-1) and Dave McKinley (R, WV-1). If passed, domestic companies that locate their call centers overseas would lose the ability to get federal grants and loans, would be kept on a list at the U.S. Department of Labor, and would have to be able transfer callers to onshore call center representatives upon customer request.

On a separate but related note, Frontier Communications in early March announced plans to add 25 to 30 jobs at its Fort Wayne call center. That may be small beans when you look at the greater employment picture; but, hey, every bit helps.



New FCC rules require telemarketers to obtain prior express written consent, including by electronic means such as a website form, before placing a robocall to a consumer.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi