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Brush up on your Do Not Call compliance to ensure you’re only calling people who want to hear from you
As your dealership dips its toes into the digital age, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time assessing how text messages, e-mails, and social media can help you communicate better with your customers. You’re doing the right thing—after all, these mediums are where and how a significant portion of your target audience like to connect. However, don’t forget, for now, the telephone is still the lifeblood of your dealership.
Inbound and outbound calls are essential to the inner workings of any dealership, but using Alexander Graham Bell’s amazing invention also means that you can’t afford to forget about Do Not Call compliance.
The basics of Do Not Call compliance in your auto dealership
Do Not Call compliance shouldn’t be a completely new topic at your dealership; the National Do Not Call Registry was created in 2003, after all, as a provision of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The DNC Registry is a list of phone numbers for consumers that do not wish to be contacted by telemarketers. It’s managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and enforced by the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and state officials.
Staying on top of the rules may not seem like an easy task (and truthfully, it isn’t), but the key to Do Not Call compliance is to accept the reality and tackle it head-on. Here are seven ways that your dealership can take control of Do Not Call compliance:
1. Have written policies and procedures in place
Total compliance with the Do Not Call registry is of the utmost importance. Your dealership’s stance on the matter and how you want compliance implemented internally should not just be a verbal understanding—get it all in writing in your HR handbook.
2. Train dealership staff and put someone in charge to enforce it
Once you have the rules in writing, you can’t just trust your employees are going to read the entire handbook and memorize it. Develop training programs for new hires and as continuing education. Everyone in the dealership that touches a telephone should be involved in this training. Additionally, someone needs to take ownership of Do Not Call compliance—preferably a compliance officer —and that individual should be in charge of managing internal DNC requests, updating the CRM, and overall enforcement.
3. An established business relationship isn’t a free pass
It’s a common misconception that having an existing business relationship with someone automatically means the DNC Registry rules don’t apply. It’s true that your dealership may call a consumer on the Registry if that person has purchased, rented, or leased your business’ goods or services, or if a financial transaction has taken place. There is a time limit, however: communications must cease 18 months after the sale or transaction takes place. Also, if a consumer asks you not to call at any point, your dealership may not call them again—even if there is an established business relationship.
4. Synchronize your lists regularly
Your compliance officer should be synchronizing your lists with an updated version of the registry at least every 31 days if your CRM doesn’t already automatically perform that function. In addition to keeping track of the FTC’s list, the compliance officer should also be keeping a record of all DNC requests from customers who have specifically requested you do not call them.
5. Try to avoid robocalls
Robocalls—aka pre-recorded telemarketing calls—have become more popular in recent years, but you may want to avoid them all together. Even though they are pre-recorded, Do Not Call compliance still applies, along with other rules. As of September 1, 2009, the FTC prohibits most robocalls unless you’ve obtained the consumer’s prior written authorization. Scam telemarketers have been using robocalls more and more often, and they’re leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many consumers—it may just be best to stay away.
6. Even legal calls have restrictions
Want to get in touch with a consumer and they aren’t on the Do Not Call Registry? That’s great! Just remember that even legal calls have restrictions when it comes to the time of day. No one in your dealership should be making calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., local time at the called party’s location. You also may not block the transmission of caller ID information.
7. Consumer permission can override the Do Not Call List
There’s good news when it comes to Do Not Call compliance that not all dealerships realize. If one of your customers is on the Do Not Call list, this isn’t an automatic wall built between the two of you. Your customer can override the DNC list by giving your dealership express written permission to call; this permission should include their number and signature. However, keep in mind that the individual can revoke this permission at any time—so don’t abuse the privilege.
Protect your dealership from Do Not Call compliance slip-ups
Why is Do Not Call compliance so important? One call from one employee to someone on the Do Not Call Registry could cost your dealership over $40,000. And if they make calls like that all the time? It’s easy to see how the costs can add up.
It may seem impossible to keep up with these rules, even if you’re trying your hardest to stay organized. Thankfully, the Do Not Call Registry has a “safe harbor” for inadvertent mistakes. If your dealership is accused of a violation, but you can prove that as part of your routine business practices, you’re meeting all the safe harbor requirements, then you will not be subject to civil penalties.
Documentation is everything, so make sure your Compliance Officer can show that your dealership:
- Has written procedures to comply with the DNC requirements
- Trains personnel in those procedures
- Monitors and enforces compliance
- Maintains an internal list of people that have requested not to be called
- Accesses the national registry no more than 31 days before calling a consumer, and maintains records documenting this process
As long as it’s clear that your dealership is prioritizing Do Not Call compliance and that the offending call was made in error, your dealership should be in the clear.
For more information on Do Not Call compliance, visit the FTC’s Q&A page.
Please keep in mind that none of the information contained in this blog post should be taken as legal advice. To ensure your dealership is fully compliant, seek the assistance of a licensed attorney.