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What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)?


The Team at CallMiner

March 27, 2017

Call center agents busy working
Call center agents busy working

A Definition of Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by Congress in 1991 to restrict telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. In 1992, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules for implementing TCPA and included a requirement for organizations making telephone solicitations to develop a process for keeping company-specific do-not-call lists.

In 2012, the FCC revised the TCPA rules. Most notably, telemarketers must obtain prior express written consent from consumers before robocalling them, telemarketers may no longer use a loophole regarding a previously established business relationship to contact consumers, and telemarketers must provide an automated, interactive opt-out process during each robocall so consumers immediately can tell the telemarketer to stop calling.

Challenges with TCPA

One of the most significant challenges organizations have with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is that telecommunications technology and marketing practices evolve more quickly than TCPA regulations, and the result is too much gray area for how organizations may contact customers by phone, text, and email. When companies are uncertain about TCPA rules, they risk non-compliance and hefty fines.

In 2015, the FCC approved more new TCPA rules which pose challenges to businesses using automatic telephone dialing technology. Unfortunately, scammers conduct business in ways that led to consumer complaints about robocalls, but legitimate businesses are feeling the effects of the new regulations. For example, the new rules translate to consumers having an easier time revoking their consent to be contacted, companies facing limitations on the amount of informational, non-telemarketing calls they can make to customers, and TCPA protections applying to text messages. As such, consumers have more protections and organizations face a higher risk of being non-compliant.

Organizations also face challenges in TCPA compliance when contacting customers because so many use mobile phones rather than landlines. As a result, call centers need to bolster their number verification strategies and maintain compliance to avoid penalties. Moreover, call centers need to have consent from consumers prior to contacting them at their mobile numbers regardless of whether the call is promotional, and they need to be aware that TCPA regulations apply to text messages, notifications, marketing messages, and mass communications.

Best Practices for Complying with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The result is that organizations must change their contact center operations and compliance programs. Some have invoked safe harbor defenses to prove they have created and instituted reasonable practices and procedures to prevent telephone solicitations that violate the TCPA and that calls that do get through are errors. In order to prove that outbound telemarketing is taking measures to be in compliance and meet safe harbor conditions, organizations must have written procedures in place, train employees on written procedures, maintain and record a list of telephone numbers the organization may not contact, and obtain federal do-not-call (DNC) lists.

One other change is that organizations can make use of interactive analytics technology to comply with TCPA and other regulations while improving customer satisfaction. Specifically, interaction analytics help organizations comply with the prior express consent (PEC) requirements of TCPA.

Interaction analytics technology gives organizations valuable feedback and analysis for improving agent performance and optimizing customer engagement and outcomes. Interaction analytics also automatically records, transcribes, and analyzes interactions with consumers and automates the process of taking trapped, unstructured information and transforming it into structured information that the organization can search and analyze. The result is call centers can determine which customers have provided express consent to be contacted. Combined with metadata from an agent call and consumer details from a CRM system, interaction analytics provides value and insights and aids in trend discovery and root cause analysis to enable organizations to deliver a consistent customer experience across channels.

Real-time speech analytics, or automated real-time monitoring, also makes it possible for decision support to occur during live calls. The decision support drives next-best-action guidance for agents, including reminders to obtain consent to contact the customer in the future. Supervisors also rely on real-time speech analytics to be aware of escalations or other calls requiring immediate action or course correction.

Overall, interaction analytics supports organizations in their efforts to comply with TCPA by documenting consent, providing documentation, preventing problems before they lead to revocation of consent, and identifying recycled phone numbers.

Could your organization better comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by implementing interaction analytics and real-time speech analytics?

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