While many registered reps may feel that the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry doesn’t apply to them, a closer look at the wording reveals there may be some issues–even when calling on existing clients. Enforcement of the Do Not Call Registry begins October 1, 2003.
The central issue some agents are concerned with is the “established business relationship” rule. According to the FTC, a telemarketer or seller may only call on a consumer who has an established business relationship for up to 18 months after the consumer’s last purchase, delivery or payment. If the consumer has signed up with the Do Not Call Registry, any calls made after this 18-month period may be considered a violation and subject to a fine–up to $11,000 per occurrence.
But many advisors feel that these new rules do not effect them. Many have not even considered their implications and have not paid any attention to their detail. Even though a planner “doesn’t do cold calling,” or “only works on referrals,” he or she may still be in violation of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.
For example, an agent receives a referral from a client and calls on the referral. Many times, the agent will not know whether or not the person he is calling has discussed this with the person who gave the referral. “If I call, technically, he never inquired directly to me, so if I call and this person is on the Do Not Call list, he may associate me with a telemarketer and file a complaint,” says one registered rep who did not want to be identified.
Putting the advisor at risk may also result in poor service levels to clients. “If it comes down to watching somebody’s securities portfolio tank, and I have to think about whether I’ve spoken to them in 18 months, I’m going to think hard about calling,” he says.
Many other registered representatives, however, feel this is a non-issue. “I’m not worried about it,” says Michael Goss, president of Michael Goss and Associates, Overland Park, Kan. “I’ve got relationships with all my clients, so it’s not going to cause a problem,” he says. Goss adds that if one of his clients does ask him not to call, he won’t call them anymore.
Even if a client hasn’t purchased anything in 18 months, some planners feel they have the right to call on them. “If I sold someone a B share mutual fund, it might have been more than 18 months ago. That’s not an unsolicited call, that’s a relationship call,” says Jeffrey West, a financial advisor with Cohen Financial Group, Framingham, Mass.
“And, what do you mean by purchase?” asks James Jacobs of Jacobs Financial Group, Chesterfield, Va. After hearing about the established relationship rule, Jacobs feels that it doesn’t apply to a number of different elements of his practice. “If they have a life insurance contract, they’re paying premiums on a recurring basis,” he says. “Or, if they’ve got a retirement plan and they’re making contributions, that’s going to be more than once a year,” Jacobs continues.