On October 16th, the Federal Communications Commission will begin enforcing a strict new set of rules governing marketing calls and text messages directed at consumers on their mobile phones.
The new rules, for example, will make it incumbent upon marketers to gain written consent from a consumer prior to adding that consumer to a mobile marketing campaign.
Recently, MMW caught up with attorney Ross Buntrock, partner at esteemed Washington, DC- based law firm Arent Fox LLP.
According to Buntrock, marketers and related professionals across numerous industries – from healthcare to gaming – must urgently educate themselves on a host of emerging issues related to consumer privacy, location based services, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
MMW: Are issues of improper compliance primarily a matter of ignorance or negligence for those who aren’t compliant with their programs?
Buntrock: I think a lot of it arises from confusion. I think a lot of people are unsure of where to put their energies when they are thinking about compliance and – to your point and to your question’s point – sometimes people are simply negligent in failing to adequately address compliance issues. People have dollar signs in their eyes and everyone is out there to make a buck. But it can quickly head south if you don’t pay attention to compliance on the top side. Even what might seem to be an immaterial amount of lack of compliance or a small number of messages – something that on the surface looks like a very discreet non-issue – can have huge consequences in terms of litigation, fines, and all sorts of trouble you can get into. You know, we’re not here to dissuade people from using the mobile channel and all the great technology that’s out there to help people push information to their customers. We’re really here to say that this is a great opportunity but you’ve got to know how to use it.”
MMW: What can companies do to stay out of the courtroom from improper compliance?
Buntrock: The reality is, there are rules that are changing [on October 16th] having to do with TCPA compliance and – in a related matter – a case of first impression was just decided by the third circuit court of appeals which addresses the issue of whether or not consumers can withdraw consent. And so with those two developments, things are only going to get worse before they get better, in terms of having to face some of these really crazy clash actions and other types of complaints. So, that being said, people can prepare themselves for these changes and legal developments by taking defensive action up front. You may not be able to avoid being sued, but you can have a good defense in place and a compliance program that helps you dispose of the litigation or the inquiries that come from a state regulator or federal regulator more quickly. You need to be able to demonstrate that you know the rules, comply with the rules, and have a memo in the files explaining exactly what your compliance program is. Those are some tactical things that you can do.
Because of these coming changes, an emergency webinar has been scheduled for October 10th, 2013 where we will bring together thought leaders in the industry to provide guidance for mobile marketers.
Ross Buntrock, along with Michael Hazzard of Arent Fox, Rip Gerber of Locaid, and Jared Reitzin of mobileStorm are scheduled to participate in this forthcoming webinar hosted by Mobile Marketing Watch, mHealthWatch, and mGamingWatch that will explore and illuminate the new intricacies of mobile compliance.
To learn more and to register for the webinar, click here.