A group of law firms who previously represented numerous TCPA "professional plaintiffs" is getting a taste of their own medicine as they are now the defendants in a class action lawsuit. Jeffrey Winters and his company, Collection Solutions Inc., is the named plaintiff in the case Winters v. Jones, filed on December 5, 2016. Click here to view a copy of the civil complaint. Defendants include, among others, Laura Mann and Yitchak Zelman, counsel for numerous plaintiff TCPA cases.
The defendants have allegedly been engaging in what is essentially a "racketeering" operation since early 2013. The lawsuit alleges this involved the filing of numerous, baseless TCPA and similar consumer protection lawsuits by the defendants against debt collection and other companies. The defendants would demand settlements in the range of $10,000 to $100,000, assuming that most of their target companies would take advantage of the less expensive settlement instead of investing even more money and time in a drawn-out litigation.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), an organization similar to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission in the United States, has issued a $50,000 penalty to Blackstone Learning Corporation. This is the firstenforcement decisionon Canada's anti-spam law that was passed over two years ago.
Blackstone sent over 385,000 unsolicited emails to the email addresses of government employees that were gathered through various websites. These marketing emails promoted the company's technical writing, grammar, and stress-management programs. Blackstone argued that because the email addresses were published for the public on the internet, there was implied consent. The CRTC countered this argument because the law only allows for unsolicited messages to "conspicuously published" addresses where the content of the message is relevant to the recipients official position.
The penalty was originally set at $640,000, but after some deliberation the CRTC eventually determined that Blackstone would be unable to pay that much. The $50,000 penalty was determined to be more appropriate.
For marketers in the US, this serves as a good reminder to understand both Canada's Anti-Spam Law and the CAN-SPAM act.
Friends and clients, just hours ago the FTC published its finalized new staff opinion letter regarding avatar or "soundboard" technology. The letter is signed by the FTC's Lois Greisman, Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices. The letter can be foundhereand should be immediately reviewed by any company who uses or offers avatar calling solutions.
The letter clarifies that FTC regulators will no longer treat avatar differently than other prerecorded robocalls. The new policy will become effective six months from now, on May 12, 2017.
Avatar calling occurs when a contact center agent plays pre-recorded snippets instead of using her/his own natural voice. The phone agent can normally still interject with live voice as needed, but can also handle multiple calls simultaneously. While not the official position of the Commission, the letter reflects the opinion of the FTC regulators who currently enforce the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
Two facts are encouraging. First, the letter has no direct effect on the FTC or the TCPA, which remain silent about soundboard technology. Second, the letter emphasizes that not all uses of avatar are illegal. For example, the technology may still be used within certain limitations for inbound, non-marketing and certain non-profit calls.
We had hoped the FTC would punt the avatar issue until after the new president takes over in January of 2017. The extent to which the new administration might seek to scale back relevant regulation and enforcement remains unclear. The year 2017 should prove to be very interesting, on the soundboard front and many other regulatory issues facing our industry.
Voice broadcasting has proven itself to be one of the best tools in getting a message out to potential customers over a vast scale. Businesses can use this technology to improve communications with their employees in an effective manner by sending out updates and notifications. Also, many effective leads can be generated using the voice broadcasting method. When you decide to use voice broadcasting (VB) to reach out to masses, there are many things that you need to take into consideration. Who are you trying to reach?
What is your budget? How many leads do you need? One way to save money is to focus on not simply placing calls to a large number of prospects that may or may not be interested. Engineering a message that is targeted to a specific group and contact list that will be more likely to respond is a cost saving method of VB. In a more general approach, voice broadcasts are a great way to generate awareness of your business, products or services.
Evolutionary voice broadcasting software is capable of playing pre-recorded messages to an individual and allows the person to interactively indicate his opinion by the press of specific keys on the phone keypad. The voice broadcasting program has the ability to detect the exact key that has been pressed by recipient and accordingly play out varied interactive messages to guide the user on further course of action.
The advanced version of voice broadcasting setup comes bundled with answering machine detection system. The built in logic of the voice broadcasting software, upon being prompted by an answering machine or voicemail, will observe and recognize the exact moment when to initiate the message; or will simply disconnect if the company prefers to call the number later when the contact may be available live. The system is capable of detecting busy signals, invalid numbers, no answers, fax, and any other disposition. Not only can you gain new customers and generate new leads through this technology, but you can also grow your repeat business by sending out information alerting customers of upcoming sales, new products or special events.
Voice Broadcasting has gained popularity in recent years for commercial ventures. Standard usage includes sending alerts, messages, notifications, product or service upgrades, promotions, events, and much more. The pre-recorded message can easily be dispatched within seconds. A company using voice broadcasting can have pre-scheduled marketing campaigns that have the messages sent out as needed at any time. It has now evolved as an effective way of communication, giving a competitive edge to all business owners who choose to use this medium. Many companies also use voice broadcasting to coincide with direct mail, radio, billboard, or television ad campaigns. Nothing gets the word out faster than a message over the phone, and there is no better way to follow up on your other marketing efforts.
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