Robo-calling and Realtors®

That Nostalgic Feeling

50+ million people from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio were left in the dark in the largest blackout in United States history. We fell in love with a clown fish on the big screen in Finding Nemo. And, oh yeah, Apple® launched a little thing called iTunes®.

This was 2003. The same year the federal government established the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s that list where you can register your phone number (you can register your number here), putting a stop to those pesky telemarketers and prerecorded voice messages from tying up your landline phone (the days before smartphones). The idea worked… for a little while.

Spam Call Likely: Yikes, Not Again!

Let’s fast forward to today. Have you noticed you’ve been getting an unprecedented amount of spam calls? You’re not alone. In 2018 alone, 48 billion (yes, billion with a “B”) robocalls were received on mobile devices in the United States. That’s a 60 percent surge from the previous year. It’s gotten to a point that when your smartphone rings, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s a robocall. Great odds gambling at the casino; not so much with phone calls. So, what’s the deal?

Robocallers and telemarketers are getting sophisticated thanks to advanced automatic dialing operations located overseas that make it easier and cheaper than ever to generate a high volume of calls. These programs are fed with massive databases compiled from automated web searches, leaked databases of personal information and marketing data. 

“I’m on the Do Not Call list, I shouldn’t be getting these calls!”

You’re absolutely right. In theory, businesses (even real estate agencies) must obey the rules by not contacting people on the registry. If they don’t follow these rules, they would be subject to significant fines. They can be upwards of $1,500 per message. Robocalling software can call hundreds, or even thousands, of telephone numbers per hour. If some of those contacts are on the do not call list, it could get extremely expensive very quickly.

Unfortunately, though, many scam callers ignore the list and evade penalties by masking the true origins of their calls (that’s why you receive robocalls from your area code). This makes it difficult for the authorities to track and prosecute.

What’s Led to This?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) way back in 1991 to combat the bombardment of sales calls. However, times have changed during the three decades since the law’s adoption. Currently, technology is outpacing the laws governing it.

According to the original TCPA rules, (that you can read in full here), it’s unlawful to make any calls using an automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice unless it’s an emergency or is made with prior expressed consent of the person being contacted. This language was drafted prior to the creation and use of smartphones. Back in 1991, the TCPA defined an automatic telephone dialing system as “equipment that has the capacity to store or produce numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers.” Some could interpret the original law where smartphones are considered banned as acceptable means for sales cold-calling.

What about text messages? Texting was not a thing when the law was created, but it’s now widely available. Therein lies the problem. More and more consumers actually want to be marketed through text messages and yet, we lack the clarification of what’s legal.

TCPA Rules Realtors® Must Follow

So, what’s considered an auto-dialer (what shouldn’t be used):

  • Using smart features on a mobile phone or computer to enable calls to be made from a list of phone numbers without prior consent.
  • Utilizing a vendor’s services to send and receive unsolicited text messages.
  • Using an auto-dialer to communicate with customers who are on the national do not call list.

Take Precautionary Measures

If your organization utilizes independent contractors or agents to sell your services, you may be liable for their telemarketing violations. In other words, there have been cases where one was held at least partially responsible for spam calling to registered DNC contacts even though they were not the person or company that was actually making the calls.  Under current laws and court rulings, the onus to investigate telemarketing services from a third-party is on those whom hire their services. There exists companies whose sole purpose is to check your databases to affirm that they are compliant to the DNC rules. You can setup an account to access the Do Not Call list here. Once you are able to access the account, you can match your current phone lists against the Do Not Call list, and remove any numbers that are off-limits.

Show Clients You Are Responsible

We can all acknowledge that getting dozens of spam calls and texts everyday is an absolute nuisance. Share this article with your following, and give them the link to register their phone numbers to be placed on the Do Not Call list (register here), to build trust and loyalty, and ensure them that we won’t be adding to an already annoying problem.

 

 

 

*Not intended as real estate or legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.