DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Telephone Marketing to Landline & Wireless Devices

Telephone Marketing Ethics


Article #1

Telephone contacts, whether to a landline or Wireless Handset or device, should be made during reasonable hours as specified by federal and state laws and regulations.


Article #2

Taping of telephone conversations by telephone marketers should only be conducted with notice to or consent of all parties, or the use of a beeping device, as required by applicable federal and state laws and regulations.


Article #3

A marketer should not knowingly call or send a voice solicitation message to a consumer who has an unlisted or unpublished telephone number except in instances where that specific number was provided by the consumer to that marketer for that purpose. A marketer should maintain an in-house Do-Not-Call list and refrain from calling numbers for solicitation purposes that are on the marketer’s in-house Do-Not-Call list.

A marketer should not knowingly call a wireless device, except in instances where the recipient has provided prior express consent to receive such calls from that marketer.

Prior to contacting a landline or wireless device, marketers should use applicable federal and DMA Wireless Suppression Files or another comprehensive wireless suppression service. Such suppression files should assist marketers in determining whether or not they are contacting a wireless device, including landline numbers that have been ported to Wireless Handsets or devices.

A marketer should use DMA’s Telephone Preference Service as required in Part II, Section VII and must use the federal Do-Not-Call registry and state Do-Not-Call lists when applicable prior to using any outbound calling list. Telemarketing calls may be made to landline telephones, where the telemarketer has an established business relationship with the individuals even if the individual is on the national registry. An established business relationship is defined as those persons with whom the marketer has had a transaction/received a payment within the last 18 months or those persons who have inquired about the marketer’s products/services within the last 3 months. Consumers who have provided informed, written permission to the marketer do not need to be suppressed by any Do-Not-Call list. Individuals can add or remove themselves from company-specific Do-Not-Call lists either orally or in writing.

Marketers should not use randomly or sequentially generated numbers in sales or marketing solicitations.


Article #4

Marketers engaging in Telemarketing to landline and wireless telephone numbers should generate caller identification information, including:

  • A telephone number for the seller, service bureau, or customer service department that the consumer can call back during normal business hours to ask questions and/or to request not to receive future calls by making a do-not-call request, and
  • Whenever the technology is available from the marketer’s telecommunications carrier, the name of the seller on whose behalf the call is placed or service bureau making the call.

Marketers should not block transmission of caller identification or transmit a false name or telephone number.

Telephone marketers using automatic number identification (“ANI”) should not rent, sell, transfer, or exchange, without customer consent, landline telephone numbers gained from ANI, except where a prior business relationship exists for the sale of directly related goods or services. With regard to mobile telephone numbers, marketers should abide by Part II, Section VII and Section VIII, Article 2.


Article #5

Marketers using Automated Dialing Equipment should allow 15 seconds or four rings before disconnecting an unanswered call.

Marketers should connect calls to live representatives within two seconds of the consumer’s completed greeting (except in cases where a prerecorded marketing message is used, in accordance with Part II, Section XII, Article 2).

If the connection does not occur within the two-second period, then the call is considered abandoned whether or not the call is eventually connected.

Whenever a live representative is not available within two seconds of the consumer’s completed greeting, the marketer should play a prerecorded identification message that includes the seller’s name and telephone number, states that the call was made for “Telemarketing purposes,” and provides a telephone number at which the consumer can request not to receive future marketing calls. The message must also contain an automated, interactive voice- and/or key press-activated opt-out mechanism that enables the called party to make a do not call request prior to terminating the call, including brief explanatory instructions on how to use such mechanism.

When the called party elects to opt-out using such mechanism, the mechanism must automatically record the called party’s number to the seller’s do not call list and immediately terminate the call.

Repeated abandoned or “hang up” calls to consumers’ residential or wireless telephone numbers should be minimized.

In no case should calls be abandoned more than:

    Three percent of answered calls within each calling Campaign, if the Campaign is less than 30 days, or separately over each successive 30-day period or portion of that period during which the Campaign continues (unless a more restrictive federal or state law applies), or twice to the same telephone number within a 48-hour time period.

Marketers should only use Automated Dialing Equipment that allows the telephone to immediately release the line when the called party terminates the connection.

When using any Automated Dialing Equipment to reach a multi-line location, whether for business-to-consumer or business-to-business marketing, the equipment should release each line used before connecting to another.

Companies that manufacture and/or sell Automated Dialing Equipment should design the software with the goal of minimizing abandoned calls to consumers. The software should be delivered to the user set as close to 0% as possible. Manufacturers should distribute these Guidelines for Automated Dialing Equipment to purchasers of dialing equipment and recommend that they be followed.

The dialers’ software should be capable of generating a Report that permits the user of the equipment to substantiate compliance with the guideline.


Article #6

Marketers who use prerecorded voice messaging should not automatically terminate calls or provide misleading or inaccurate information when a live consumer answers the telephone.

Consent Required: Marketers should only use text messaging sent via Automated Dialing Equipment or prerecorded voice to sell goods or services if they have first obtained the call recipient’s prior express written agreement to receive prerecorded messages through a written form which may be electronic to the extent permitted by law. In obtaining the consumer’s express written agreement, a marketer should observe the following:

  • Before obtaining the consumer’s informed consent, the marketer should clearly and conspicuously disclose that the purpose of the agreement is to allow the marketer to make prerecorded message calls or send autodialed texts to the consumer.
  • The written agreement should evidence the consumer’s informed consent to receive prerecorded calls or text messages by or on behalf of the specific marketer.
  • The marketer should not require that the consumer agree to receive prerecorded calls or text messages as a condition of purchasing any good or service.
  • Disclosures that the individual’s consent allows the marketer to make prerecorded calls and/or text messages, and that providing consent is not a condition of any purchase, should be made at the time the marketer is seeking written consent.
  • Disclosure that by executing the agreement, the individual authorizes the marketer to deliver to the individual marketing text messages using Automatic Dialing Equipment or a prerecorded voice.
  • The agreement should include the consumer’s telephone number and signature.
  • Marketers may obtain the written agreement electronically in accordance with applicable laws such as the E-Sign Act.

Choice Mechanism: Marketers should provide an in-call opt-out mechanism that the call recipient can use to be placed on the company’s do-not-call list during the each prerecorded call, or provide an opt-out mechanism within the text message. The type of opt-out mechanism that the marketer should provide depends on whether the call can be answered by a live person or by an automated device. If the marketer is able to determine whether a prerecorded call has been answered by a live person or an automated device, the marketer should tailor the prerecorded message to include the appropriate opt-out mechanism (either option 1 or 2 below):

  1. If the call is answered by a live person, then the marketer should provide an automated interactive voice and/or keypress-activated opt-out mechanism that the recipient can use to make an opt-out request. The mechanism should be available for use at any time during the message.
  2. If the call is answered by an answering machine or voicemail system, then the prerecorded message should provide a toll-free telephone number that the recipient can call to make an opt-out request at any time during the Telemarketing Campaign. The telephone number provided should connect directly to an automated interactive voice and/or keypress-activated opt-out mechanism. Consumers should be able to call at any time of the day, and on any day, during the duration of the Campaign.

If the marketer is not able to determine whether a prerecorded call has been answered by a live person or an automated device, the prerecorded message should include both options 1 and 2.

The interactive voice and/or keypress-activated opt-out mechanism—regardless of whether the prerecorded call can be answered by a live person or automated answering device—should have the following features:

    The opt-out mechanism should automatically add the number called to the entity’s company-specific do-not-call list; and the opt-out mechanism should immediately disconnect the call once the opt-out request is made.

Marketers may use prerecorded messages that provide information, but do not induce the purchase of goods or services, without first obtaining prior written consent and without providing an opt-out mechanism. Such calls should promptly disclose the identity of the caller at the outset of the call and provide a valid telephone number sometime during the call.


Article #7

Unless there is an established business relationship, or unless prior permission has been granted, advertisements, offers and solicitations, whether sent to a consumer or a business, should not be transmitted to a facsimile machine, including computer fax machines. An established business relationship in the fax context is defined as a prior or existing relationship based on a voluntary, two-way communication between the sender and recipient of the fax. Such communication includes a purchase, transaction, inquiry, or application for or about goods or services offered by the sender. For business relationships formed after July 9, 2005, the fax number must be provided voluntarily by the recipient to the sender, or be made available voluntarily by the recipient in a directory, advertisement, or Internet site.

Each permitted transmission to a fax machine must clearly contain on the first page:

  • Date and time the transmission is sent;
  • The identity of the sender which is registered as a business with a state;
  • The telephone number of the sender or the sending machine; and
  • A clear and conspicuous opt-out notice.

The opt-out notice should:

  • Clearly state that the recipient may opt out of any future faxes and provide clear instructions for doing so;
  • Provide a domestic telephone number and fax number for recipients to transmit an opt-out request; and
  • Unless the telephone or fax number is toll-free, a cost-free mechanism to submit an opt-out request.

Senders must accept opt-out requests at any time.

Opt-out requests must be honored in 30 days, or sooner if feasible. An opt-out request terminates permission to send future faxes based only on an established business relationship.


Article #8

Promotions for response by 800 or other toll-free numbers should be used only when there is no charge to the consumer for the call itself and when there is no transfer from a toll-free number to a pay call.

Promotions for response by using 900 numbers or any other type of pay-per-call programs should clearly and conspicuously disclose all charges for the call. A preamble at the beginning of the 900 or other pay-per-call should include the nature of the service or program, charge per minute, and the total estimated charge for the call, as well as the name, address, and telephone number of the sponsor. The caller should be given the option to disconnect the call at any time during the preamble without incurring any charge. The 900 number or other pay-per-call should only use equipment that ceases accumulating time and charges immediately upon disconnection by the caller.


Article #9

Marketers should make the following initial disclosures promptly:

  • The identity of the seller or charitable organization on behalf of which the call is made;
  • That the purpose of the call is to sell goods or services or to solicit a charitable contribution;
  • The nature of the goods or services offered during the call (if applicable); and
  • If a prize promotion is offered, that no purchase or payment is necessary to be able to win a prize or participate in a prize promotion and that any purchase or payment will not increase the person’s chances of winning.

Prior to asking consumers for payment authorization, telephone marketers should disclose the cost of the merchandise or service and all terms and conditions, including payment plans, whether or not there is a no refund or a no cancellation policy in place, limitations, and the amount or existence of any extra charges such as shipping and handling and insurance. At no time should high pressure tactics be utilized.

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