U.S. Regulator Shields Telephone Survey Research From Further Restrictions

Top Quote The FCC today passed new rules cracking down on telemarketing robocalls while continuing to allow for telephone survey research. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) February 16, 2012 - Washington, DC - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today unanimously approved new regulations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) - the key law restricting telephone survey research across the U.S. - that will prohibit most telemarketing robocalls while continuing to permit survey research calls.

    When proposed in early 2010, the draft regulations would have required "express prior written consent" for research calls to cell phones using an autodialer. Following a year and a half of entreaties from industry stakeholders and Members of Congress, the agency apparently dropped that specific provision before passing a final version of the regulations this morning. The final version focuses strictly on the FCC's original stated intent: harmonizing the regulation of telemarketing "robocalls" with the Federal Trade Commission (FCT) and not impacting regulation of survey research calls.

    "The research profession is gratified to be recognized in the FCC actions this morning, as the requirements for telephone survey research remain unchanged," said Howard Fienberg, PLC, director of government affairs for the Marketing Research Association (MRA). "We continue our efforts to legalize autodialed research calls to cell phone users."

    Existing FCC regulations under the TCPA prohibit the use of an "automatic telephone dialing system" to contact "any telephone number assigned to a …cellular telephone" without the "express prior consent" of the party being called. This requirement applies to both telemarketers and survey researchers.

    "By requiring that all consent be written, the proposed rules could have made it even harder to conduct research based on viable representative samples," Fienberg said. "That would have hurt research providers, their clients and the public that benefits from research."

    The new FCC regulations will only require express prior written consent for telemarketing robocalls. The regulations also will require telemarketing robocalls to offer an automated opt out function and will set more stringent limits of abandoned telemarketing calls.

    MRA filed comments with the FCC in 2010 and helped convince Congress to weigh in as well. Last week, Fienberg and MRA member Michael Mermelstein (G2 Associates) met with FCC staff regarding the proposed regulations.

    MRA has been lobbying to exempt survey and opinion research from the TCPA restrictions on calls to cell phones for years, making the case Members of Congress and candidates for office.

    While the full FCC regulatory changes will not be available for several weeks, MRA will offer detailed guidance once they are made public.

    Founded in 1957, the Marketing Research Association (MRA) is the leading and largest association of the opinion and marketing research profession in the U.S., which delivers insights and intelligence to guide the decisions of companies providing products and services to consumers and businesses. Online at http://www.marketingresearch.org

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