We all have the experience of receiving unsolicited calls from scammers, politicians, non-profits, banks, health insurance companies, healthcare entities, telemarketers, and others. Unfortunately, the creation of the “Do-not-call Registry” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2003 did not stop many of these phone calls. There are several reasons for the continued phone calls, despite registering yourself on the do-not-call registry. Those reasons include scammers and telemarketers who don’t follow the FCC regulations. Many companies and organizations are exempt from worrying about the do-not-call registry. For example, if an insurance company, healthcare system, or pharmacy has something important or urgent to tell you, they can call or text you even if you are on the do-not-call list.
So how can a practitioner be on the do-not-call registry yet still get unsolicited phone calls from staffing agencies? Don’t these phone calls violate federal telemarketing laws?
The regulatory organizations that oversee telecommunications (phone and text) are the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FCC enforces the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which applies to any call, whereas the FTC enforces the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), which applies only to telemarketers. These policies are in place to protect all Americans against unfair practices and predatory acts of telemarketers.
As defined, telemarketers are those that make phone calls and send text messages for selling/renting goods or services. This also includes those that solicit your money for investments. Staffing agencies and their recruiters would not be considered telemarketers. This is because practitioners are not asked to purchase or pay for anything. Thus, locums recruiters are exempt from some of the regulations set forth by the FTC and FCC.
This article reviews the components of TCPA and TSR that relate to how staffing agencies, particularly their recruiters, attempt to interact with you by phone and text. Although the TCPA and TSR and meant for different purposes, they have similar principles. We discuss what is and is not allowable from locum recruiters when making unsolicited phone calls or texts to practitioners. We also add our two-sense about if it is fair or not.
***Please recognize that this article is not written by an attorney or expert in the field of telemarketing law. Thus, take the time to review this information with attorneys or federal agencies if you have questions about the legalities of items related to TCPA or TSR.
What locums recruiters can and can’t do.
-They can blindly call/text landlines and wireless phones to initiate conversations with practitioners on the “do-not-call” registry. Telemarketing laws allow for this since the practitioners are not being asked to purchase, rent or invest in something. What is not clear is if recruiters have the right to call our family members, friends, and hospital departments looking to speak with practitioners. Sadly, this is happening more often as recruiters call numbers to reach practitioners indirectly. Should our parents be getting phone calls from locums recruiters? Is that fair? We don’t think so.
-Recruiters must disclose their identity and the purpose of their call/text.
-Recruiters cannot misrepresent any aspects of the arrangements they are working on with practitioners. It would be nice if recruiters would be more transparent about their intentions, compensation rates, and contractual agreements with facilities. Recruiters may not be misrepresenting their work, but one should question their degree of transparency.
-Recruiters cannot use autodialer or pre-recorded messages unless practitioners provide written consent. Thankfully, you don’t see this too often. With that said, all practitioners should be careful that they do not give consent to these unsolicited calls. Not sure if this has ever happened, but a locums recruiter could quickly get your consent when you sign up to work with them.
-Recruiters can send individual texts but cannot send a mass text to all practitioners. Practitioners would have to give consent to receive mass text. It is not always clear if recruiters are sending individual texts or not. Receiving a random text is usually not a problem, but it may be unlawful if recruiters generate them on a computer or other application.
-Recruiters shall avoid repeated calls urging practitioners to take a new position. This could be seen as an intent to annoy, abuse, or harass a practitioner, which is illegal.
-Recruiters must call within the hours 8am – 9pm in the practitioner’s time zone.
-Recruiters shall refrain from engaging in any abusive practice toward practitioners. Practitioners should be given the right to be left alone. Recruiters must respect the practitioner’s wishes if they ask to no longer receive calls or texts. Failure to comply with a practitioner’s request can violate TCPA and TSR.
-Practitioners have the right to revoke their consent to receive calls or texts in any reasonable manner, at any time.
-When available, caller ID information should be transmitted when recruiters make calls. Recruiters should not hide their numbers. Preferably, the company’s name should be available on the caller ID, but this is not always done.
Each state may have its own laws for telemarketers that might be stricter than what is enforced by the FTC and FCC. Unfortunately, it is difficult for state and federal agencies to enforce these regulations. Thus, many of the illegal solicitation practices continue, as there are not many to punish those in violation.
Many locums recruiters rightfully abide by the FTC and FCC guidelines. At the same time, others do not. Is your recruiter in compliance with the FTC and FCC? This article discussed how it is legal for locums recruiters to make unsolicited calls/texts to all practitioners even if they are on the do-not-call list registry. Practitioners reserve the right to submit their request to be removed from any agency’s calling list. If recruiters do not comply with practitioners’ requests to receive calls or texts, they could be found in violation of the TCPA or TSR.
So the next time you get frustrated by a recruiter’s repeated calls or texts, ask them if they are familiar with the Federal Telemarketing laws. Remind them that you would be happy to report them to the FTC or FCC if they continue to annoy you.