Prerecorded Voice Messages are Mostly Illegal
For telemarketers, outbound prerecorded voice messages can sound like a great idea. Rather than relying on an employee delivering a sales message, the combination of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) and a prerecorded voice message offers an efficient, cost-effective way to reach many potential customers each day.
Most of us do receive calls with prerecorded messages, at least occasionally. School cancellations, doctor's appointment reminders, and public service announcements are commonly delivered via voice messages. But before telemarketing companies and other businesses adopt the practice, they should be aware that most prerecorded voice messages are illegal in the United States.
A federal law known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits using prerecorded voice messages except in very specific cases. Enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the TCPA also allows the government to impose substantial penalties for non-compliance. You and your company need to know about outbound prerecorded voice messages.
Cell Numbers and Express Consent Under the TCPA
The TCPA generally prohibits using outbound calls made using an ATDS to cellular phone numbers without the recipient's prior express consent. Specifically, the language of the law refers to "auto-dialed or prerecorded call(s)," thus broadly prohibiting automated calls without consent.
In short, callers are not allowed to use an ATDS to place calls or send text messages to a cell phone without the recipient's prior express consent unless a call is made for emergency purposes. How consent is defined and how it's given depends on the nature of the call.
For "non-telemarketing and non-advertising calls," express consent can be as simple as the recipient giving their wireless number to the party initiating the call. Express oral or written consent is also acceptable. This covers many exceptions mentioned earlier, like informational messages from schools or automated calls from your doctor's office.
Express Written Consent
Things get stricter for calls classified as an advertisement or telemarketing. While these terms are well-defined in the TCPA, automated calls that can be reasonably assumed to be for advertising or sales purposes require express written consent.
In this context, obtaining express written consent involves the recipient filling out and signing a consent form. The form should clearly explain the relationship between the caller and recipient, how data is collected and used, and any necessary legal disclosures. The form can be on paper or electronic, such as a web form with an electronic signature.
As it can be very difficult to get prior express consent (PEC) or prior express written consent (PEWC), you might consider most prerecorded voice messages illegal.
Landlines and Prerecorded Voice Messages
While the TCPA regulations for automated calls to cell phones require businesses to be extra sure consent is in place, prerecorded voice calls to landline numbers are also restricted.
The current requirements are largely thanks to efforts by the US Congress to combat illegal robocalls. While the TCPA has been around for some time now, the law was previously more lenient about landline phones. But the TRACED Act passed in 2019, required the FCC to review and revise TCPA exemptions for informational calls with an artificial or prerecorded voice made to landlines. Upon completing the review, sweeping changes were announced.
Before the TRACED Act, outbound calls with prerecorded informational voice messages were allowed to residential landlines without the recipient's express consent. Now, these new rules are in place:
• No more than three calls can be made to a single landline number in 30 days
• The message must also include an automated opt-out mechanism
• A valid phone number that the recipient can call to opt out must also be included in the message
In essence, the requirements are much the same as for advertising and telemarketing calls to cell phones. Express written consent is required, along with presenting the recipient with several different methods for opting out of future calls.
The Penalties for TCPA Non-Compliance
Businesses that fall outside of TCPA compliance can face stiff penalties. The FCC can seek up to $16,000 for every non-intentional TCPA violation. That goes up to $26,000 per intentional violation.
In addition, recipients who received calls violating the TCPA can seek statutory damages of up to $500 per call or text message or $1,500 for each willful or knowing violation. Class action lawsuit, anyone?
How Does STIR/SHAKEN Help?
While STIR/SHAKEN is not part of the TCPA, it is mandated by the TRACED Act. STIR/SHAKEN requires outbound telecom carriers to sign every call with an attestation. This is essentially a rating of A, B or C, signifying the carrier's confidence that the caller is who they say they are.
STIR/SHAKEN doesn't address the issues of consent required to make automated telemarketing and/or prerecorded voice calls. But it does help give consumers confidence that their phone's caller ID information is accurate and that they will be talking to the company they expect. With consent in place plus using a SHAKEN Telecom Service Provider, businesses are able to reach their customers more often and more effectively.
Quality Voice & Data Helps You Reach More Customers
As a SHAKEN Telecom Service Provider that signs all calls with an A Attestation at Quality Voice Data, we monitor each caller ID number utilized by our customers. To reach more customers without being blocked and flagged, get in touch with us today and see how we can help.
Angela Garfinkel currently serves as Director for Quality Voice & Data. With 30+ years of call center and business process outsourcing experience, Angela provides the QVD team with key insights to support product development, marketing and sales.