FCC "Do-Not-Call" Rule Applies to Banks
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a final "do-not-call" rule that parallels the one adopted by the FTC. While the FTC does not have jurisdiction over banks, the FCC rule does apply to banks and their interaction with customers.
Scope of the Rule. The FCC rule generally applies to calls made to residential numbers and covers all "telephone solicitations," that is, telephone calls or messages to encourage the consumer to purchase, rent or invest in property, goods or services. It does not include calls that are made with the customer's prior written permission or calls made by or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Calls where there is a personal relationship, such as where the caller is a family member, friend or acquaintance of the person called, are also exempt. Significantly, calls to set up a face-to-face appointment or calls to referrals are not exempt and must comply with the do-not-call rule.
Under the FCC rule, banks will not be allowed to call consumers that have placed their telephone numbers on the national do-not-call registry unless the bank and the consumer have an established business relationship. An established business relationship is defined as a transaction with the consumer within the last 18 months or an inquiry from the consumer within the last three months. Sending an account statement should qualify as a transaction, although this has yet to be finalized.
Do-Not-Call Registry. Effective October 1, before making any telephone solicitations, the bank must have procedures in place to ensure that it does not call a number placed on the national registry within the last 90 days. The national do-not-call registry already includes over 30 million telephone numbers. Lists of numbers by area code can be obtained from the FTC, with no charge for up to five area codes (the FTC has proposed charging $29 for each additional area code, $7,250 maximum).
The FCC is encouraging states with separate "do-not-call" registries to download their databases to the national list. However, the FCC has determined that its "do-not-call" rule establishes a minimum standard for all states and any calls to a consumer are subject to the national registry. If a state has more restrictive requirements for how calls are made (such as more restrictive hours), those requirements apply to intrastate calls, but the FCC rule generally pre-empts all state requirements for interstate calls.
Unsolicited Fax Advertisements. Perhaps one of the more controversial elements of the new rule applies to unsolicited fax advertisements. The rule requires written and signed permission from all entities, both consumer and business, before any fax "advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods or services" can be transmitted. This restriction applies even where there is an established business relationship with the recipient. The provisions on unsolicited fax advertisements take effect August 25.
The full text of the rule can be found at www.fcc.gov/cgb.