If you or people you hire engage in cold calling to generate leads and set appointments, are you doing a good job of making sure approved procedures are continually being followed? If not, you risk running afoul of state or federal Do-Not-Call laws.
Such was the case recently for California-based Farmers Insurance Exchange, Truck Insurance Exchange and Fire Insurance Exchange (collectively referred to as “Farmers”).
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in October that he had settled a lawsuit filed against Farmers for violating Missouri’s telemarketing and No-Call laws. Under the agreement, Farmers will pay $575,000 to the state of Missouri—the largest amount ever paid by a telemarketer for Missouri No-Call and telemarketing violations.
The settlement agreement also requires Farmers, which sells home, life and auto insurance through its independent agents, to adopt policies and procedures to prevent future telemarketing and No-Call violations, including agent training and annual audits of a sample of the company’s agents.
Koster said the Attorney General’s Office received more than 275 No-Call complaints over a four-year period about Farmers agents’ harassing telemarketing practices. Many consumers complained that they continued to be contacted by Farmers agents after instructing them not to call. Unwanted telemarketing calls and harassing treatment by telemarketers annually rank highest on the list of complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office.
“Farmers Insurance simply looked the other way while its agents were flouting Missouri’s no-call law, illegally bombarding Missouri consumers with unwanted telemarketing calls,” Koster said in a statement announcing the settlement. “This historic settlement combined with new training requirements should ensure Farmers reforms its practices to protect Missouri consumers.”
The National Do Not Call Registry has been around since 2004, but a lot of people still aren’t quite sure about the rules. For consumers who register, the DNC list keeps them off of for-profit business call lists. Telemarketers have to update their lists at least every 31 days, but if someone on the list receives a sales call from a company with which they have no existing business relationship after that initial period, that person can file a complaint. If it comes down to it, the penalty can be substantial: the federal penalty is $16,000 for every violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.