How to Comply with the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule

The Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule puts consumers in charge of how they want to receive telemarketing communications. Beginning Sept. 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission regulations will require that automated sales communications can only be delivered to recipients who have already provided their express written consent to receive them. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Mark Friedman explains how to create a successful preference and opt-in program for more targeted, effective marketing communications.


In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) adopted an amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) citing consumer protection against unwanted marketing communications. As of Dec. 1, 2008, all prerecorded telemarketing sales calls must provide an automated, interactive opt-out feature for consumers. More significantly, beginning Sept. 1, 2009, automated sales communications can only be delivered to those recipients who have provided their express written consent to receive them.

Having an existing business relationship (EBR) will no longer suffice as sufficient approval for organizations to attempt to sell a good or service via an automated, prerecorded message. The FTC's telemarketing amendment is a unique opportunity for organizations because it combines both critical and strategic issues: the urgency of a time deadline (that is, they must obtain permission by September 1, 2009) and a strategic opportunity that can impact long-term success by enabling more targeted, effective marketing.

The FTC's amended TSR is a game changer. Organizations need to act quickly to maximize the percentage of consumers that they will be able to cost-effectively reach via automated calls to sell their goods and services.

Customer communications and brand loyalty

Companies establish a brand impression with their customers; the better and stronger the brand impression, generally the more profitable the relationship for the organization. Customer communications plays a major role in forming that brand impression. Yet how many organizations really know how each one of their customers prefers to be contacted? And under what circumstances?

For example, if you are running a special sale on an item your customers might be interested in purchasing, would they prefer to find out via e-mail? Voice message? Text message? Direct mail? Some combination of these? What if you wanted to make a special offer to members of your loyalty/reward program; how would your customers want to hear about this offer?

Each consumer has his or her own communication preferences. Some consumers want to receive e-mails; others would prefer voice or text messages, and still others would prefer to be called on their mobile phones. And many would prefer to receive communications through a combination of channels. It is important to ask consumers directly how they want to be communicated with so that you can develop a communication strategy that encompasses their preferences.

Communications are all about getting consumers to act. And here's the point: if you know in advance what their preferences are, you will be in a much better position to have your communications break through and be acted upon. This will mean more market share, more revenue and more profit.

Once an organization determines the individual communication preferences of its consumers, it can then secure express written consent (that is, their permission) from these consumers. As a result, organizations will be well positioned to deliver relevant information to consumers who have expressed an interest in their goods or services.