It’s Wednesday. Still no word from the FCC Commission on the TCPA. But TCPA-related news isn’t waiting for anything official — which takes us to Florida.
The Federal Trade Commission and Florida’s Attorney General have joined forces to cease the operations of an “Orlando-based operation that has been bombarding consumers since 2011 with massive robocall campaigns designed to trick them into paying up-front for worthless credit card interest rate reduction programs.” And no, it’s not Disney.
“These scammers were making illegal robocalls to people nationwide, some of whom were seniors on fixed incomes. Too often the services promised were never provided, and consumers faced even more credit card debt through charges made without their consent,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “My office, in partnership with the FTC, has shut down this illegal credit card interest rate reduction scam and brought those responsible under the control of a federal court receiver.”
The full release can be read here.
While we’re waiting for that TCPA language, here’s something else to do: Google your company.
Is your company Google-able? It should be. The first several search results should not be BBB reports on your company, or “scam alert” message board posts. When you Google “Payless Solutions” — the Orlando-based company in dutch with the FTC and Florida’s Attorney General — that’s what you get: search results that speak to several layers of illegitimacy of the business.
Also, make sure your company really only has one name. Not, in the case of Payless Solutions, several. From the FTC’s press release: “The defendants include: 1) All Us Marketing LLC, f/k/a Payless Solutions, LLC; 2) Global Marketing Enterprises Inc., f/k/a Pay Less Solutions Inc.; 3) Global One Financial Services LLC; 4) Your #1 Savings LLC; 4) Ovadaa LLC; 5) Royal Holdings Of America LLC; 6) Gary Rodriguez; 7) Marbel Rodriguez; 8) Carmen Williams; 9) Jonathan Paulino; 10) Fairiborz Fard; 11) Shirin Imani; and 13) Alex Serna.”
Other things to make sure your company’s website has:
1) A phone number. And, while we’re talking about phones — make sure people answer the phone with, at the very least, the name of your company. Employees should not be answering your phone — especially your general information line — with “Yah?” or “Hello.” Here’s a mini-script: “Hello, insideARM [or, you know, your company name], may I help you?” Letting callers know they’ve reached (a) a business; and (b) the correct one, goes a long way towards keeping your agency on the right side of UDAAP.
2) An email address. Legitimate businesses want to hear from their consumers — and collection agencies shouldn’t be any different. Have a general email address. Make sure someone is responsive to those emails.
3) Speaking of emails — consider building a compliant portal for your site. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is from Rozanne Andersen of Ontario Systems: Make your company a complaint magnet. It shows a willingness to communicate and work with consumers. It can help alert you to in-house issues that need to be addressed immediately. And there’s the chance that, if they can complain immediately to you, they won’t then take that complaint to either the CFPB’s or the FTC’s complaint portal as well.
4) Which brings us back to responsiveness. Make sure someone is monitoring communications from consumers via these aforementioned channels. Set internal goals of “we’ll get back to emails/complaints via our website in x days.” And try to keep that x to below three.
5) Finally: just don’t do dumb stuff like target seniors with illegal products and services. Don’t target anyone with illegal products and services. Just…don’t break the law, guys.
In conclusion: our internal betting pool thinks that TCPA language will be released at the end of the day tomorrow, right before the three-day holiday weekend.