Thursday, November 21, 2013

New amendments to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act will bring challenges but ultimately greater success for mobile marketers.

Since 2010, the mobile technology industry has exploded, with more than 90% of American adults now being mobile users, according to a report by the Pew Research Center on American Life. Accordingly, marketers have taken advantage of this wildly expanding communication medium, and government has taken steps to regulate exactly how commercial entities engage with mobile users.

In February 2012, the FCC finalized amendments to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), and required full compliance with these updated regulations by October 16, 2013. Significantly, these changes make it necessary for marketers to obtain express written consent prior to sending telemarketing calls (including texts) to mobile devices. The previously-existing rules, which require senders to have prior express consent to reach out to mobile devices, still apply to non-sales informational calls. Fines for violations of the TCPA range from $500 to $1,500 per message.

The new TCPA rules state that it is unlawful to “[i]nitiate, or cause to be initiated, any telephone call that includes or introduces an advertisement or constitutes telemarketing, using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice” to certain restricted categories of phone numbers, including those assigned to mobile devices, “other than a call made with the prior express written consent, of the called party or the prior express consent of the called party when the call is made by or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.” It is also unlawful to “initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver the message without the prior express written consent of the called party,” unless it qualifies as an emergency, non-commercial, or other exempt call.

Gone are the days when companies could use autodialing systems or send prerecorded voice messages to a consumer base simply based on prior engagement. Plus, oral consent is no longer sufficient. As of October 16, 2013, all companies must have customers opt in to marketing lists via written consent forms in order to send any autodialed telemarketing calls to mobile devices or prerecorded telemarketing calls to land lines. The FCC does permit digital consent so long as the Federal E-SIGN act is complied with. Additionally, companies cannot make consent a condition of purchasing or receiving goods or services.

With such potentially massive fines, it is now imperative for marketers to closely adhere to the new guidelines. This might prove especially difficult for larger companies with big databases, but in the end should prove worthwhile.

How will the new regulations improve mobile marketing and resulting revenues?

Yes, the new rules will present some challenges in building significant marketing lists, but this filtering process should ultimately result in some advantages in the marketing industry. First and foremost, it will serve to clean up SPAM advertising, generating more attentive consumers who are actually interested in receiving information and solicitations from companies. Saving money on marketing to fewer contacts while earning a greater ROI on the customers that have opted in will make for more highly optimized marketing campaigns. Plus, the need for rigorous adherence to the consent requirements will motivate marketers to get more creative and entertaining when utilizing emerging technology for marketing purposes. Companies will certainly have to develop engaging, fun, and worthwhile user experiences to get customers excited about opting in.

When developing a mobile marketing strategy, be sure to review the new TCPA rules and begin to brainstorm on innovative marketing ideas. For further info on the new laws, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE. Using social media, viral video, mobile apps, games, and creative engagement tools via text messaging and voice broadcasting will be key in compelling the tech-savvy mobile market.

DISCLAIMER: While the author has made efforts to provide accurate information, this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Please seek guidance from your own legal counsel to learn how the FCC regulations apply to your particular situation, and what steps you must take to be compliant with these and other regulations.