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If you are a sales agent for a financial services or insurance company, it is imperative that you take steps to comply with the requirements of the new do-not-call law.

Implemented Oct. 1, 2003, the rules set requirements for outbound telephone marketing to contact prospects or make sales. The Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the states are enforcing the laws, with fines and penalties for noncompliance of up to $11,000 per violation.

The good news is that it is possible to comply.

So long as you institute the right procedures, using the telephone under the new privacy rules can be a safe and effective way to identify prospects and make sales.

How can an agent comply? The question comes up repeatedly in our work with insurance firms. The following are the key steps.

The first and most important rule is to refrain from calling consumers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

Since June, the federal government has been accepting and tracking the home telephone numbers of consumers who do not wish to receive sales calls.

Currently, there are 54 million phone numbers listed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. This represents nearly one-third of the 166 million residential phone numbers in the United States. Any sales calls made to consumers listed on the registry may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000 for each such call.

The rules also place several other requirements on individuals who make outbound sales calls. Specifically, anyone placing a sales call to a consumer at a residential phone number must:

Purchase and access the National and State Do-Not-Call lists and refrain from calling any consumer phone numbers that appear on these lists;

Record the phone number of any consumer who requests to be placed on your company-specific Do-Not-Call list, and make sure no one else in the company calls that number for 5 years;

Maintain a written company Do-Not-Call policy and promptly provide the policy to any consumer who may request it;

Receive training on the Do-Not-Call rules and your companys policy toward them;

Respect the time restrictions for placing calls (varies by state); and,

Keep records of all activities taken to comply with the rules.

Companies that monitor and enforce compliance with these rules can seek a safe harbor defense to a violation if the violation is the result of technical or human error.

Fortunately, the FCC and FTC have published what is necessary to seek safe harbor. So long as you comply and document your steps to comply, you will have the opportunity to seek safe harbor from a Do-Not-Call claim.

Understanding these laws and how they affect your firms marketing practices is essential to living in this new world of regulatory overload.

This is especially evident when you take into consideration the potential fines being levied on companies for violations. Recently, the FCC issued a $780,000 fine to a company for allegedly failing to honor consumers requests to be placed on the firms internal Do-Not-Call list.

Keep in mind: The federal government is not the only regulatory agency enforcing the rules. The states are also very active, as highlighted by Californias recent decision to fine a company $100,000 for allegedly failing to comply with the National Do-Not-Call registry.

The federal and state governments are sending a clear message that they will enforce all aspects of the rules set forth under their newly amended laws. What does this mean to you? Complying with these laws is essential to your firms long-term survival.

is president and chief executive officer of http://www.PossibleNOW.com Inc., a Duluth, Ga., software firm providing direct marketers with do-not-call compliance solutions. His e-mail is sfrey@possiblenow.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 5, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.