do not call

The Telemarketer’s Guide to Do-Not-Call Compliance

To launch a telemarketing campaign, businesses will need to build their contact lists with an understanding of how the National Do-Not-Call Registry works, how the list protects consumers’ rights, and the potential penalties associated with violating the regulations.

As people grow more attached to their phones, telemarketing has become an essential tool for reaching consumers. It is a convenient outreach tactic, but it may not be as simple to execute as merely contacting a list of phone numbers.

Consumer rights and choices play a major part in how telemarketers reach them. To safeguard these rights, several state and federal laws exist that advertisers must understand and abide by in order to run successful telemarketing campaigns.

One important regulatory example is the National Do-Not-Call Registry, which affords consumers the choice about whether they want to receive telemarketing calls. Currently, more than 221 million phone numbers are on this list.

What is the National Do-Not-Call Registry?

The National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry was established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2003 to provide telemarketers with a list of phone numbers belonging to consumers who wish to limit the amount of telemarketing calls that they receive.

The National DNC list was created as an outgrowth of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), which: 1) requires telemarketers to make specific disclosures of material information; 2) prohibits misrepresentations, sets limits on when telemarketers may call consumers; 3) prohibits calls to consumers who have asked not to be called again; and 4) sets payment restrictions for the sale of certain goods and services.

Additional laws work in conjunction with the TSR to regulate telemarketing practices, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

How do telemarketers use the registry?

Before placing any telemarketing calls, unless an exemption applies, telemarketers are required to subscribe to the National DNC Registry, pay all necessary fees, and scrub potential called party numbers against the list. Service providers for telemarketers may also access the registry.

In both cases, the only consumer information that subscribers will receive when they access the list is the telephone numbers of consumers who have registered. The sole purpose of accessing these phone numbers is to prevent telemarketing solicitations to those listed phone numbers.

How do-not-call lists protect consumer rights

Consumers can register their personal landlines and/or mobile phone numbers with the National DNC Registry. (Fax and business phone numbers cannot be registered.)

Approximately 14 states also have their own DNC registries and associated regulations to further protect consumer rights. For this reason, it is important for telemarketers to ensure that they are in compliance with both federal and state do not call regulations.

Telemarketers are also advised to maintain their own internal do-not-call lists, which they need to keep up-to-date under federal law. Along with these internal lists, advertisers should maintain written policies related to the management and use of do-not-call lists.

Compliance with the National DNC Registry Requirements

If a consumer’s phone number is listed on the National DNC Registry, it does not mean that she/he may not receive any telemarketing calls (and, in the case of mobile phone users, text messages). Consumers can provide consent to specific organizations that they want to receive communications from.

Telemarketers are allowed to call consumers who:

  • Expressly agree in writing to receive calls by or on behalf of the seller;
  • Provide this affirmative consent through a clear and conspicuous request; and
  • Provide the number to which calls may be placed as a part of this agreement.

How do you know if you are violating the DNC Registry requirements?

The following actions are considered violations of the TSR, DNC, and other federal telemarketing regulations:

  • Using the DNC Registry for any purpose other than complying with applicable regulations.
  • Interfering with a person’s right to be placed on the DNC Registry.
  • Placing a telemarketing call to a person whose number is on the DNC Registry, unless the caller qualifies for one or more of the exemptions outlined below, including the established business relationship and safe harbor exemptions.

Established Business Relationship Exemption

With this exemption, a seller may call a consumer whose phone number is on the DNC Registry (provided the consumer has not otherwise asked to be placed on the seller’s internal do-not-call list) if the consumer has done either of the following:

  • Purchased, rented or leased the seller’s goods or services, or entered into a financial transaction with the seller, within 18 months preceding the subject telemarketing call; or
  • Inquired about or applied for the seller’s goods or services within three months preceding the subject telemarketing call.

Please note that this exemption does not necessarily apply when the subject telemarketing call is placed by one of the seller’s subsidiaries or affiliates.

“Safe Harbor” Exemption

Telemarketers are not subject to civil penalties or sanctions for calling a number on the DNC Registry if the caller erroneously placed the subject telemarketing call, provided that the advertiser meets the following standards as part of its routine business practices:

  • Establishes, implements, and enforces written internal do-not-call procedures;
  • Maintains an internal do-not-call list;
  • Trains its personnel and affiliates in these procedures; and
  • Synchronizes its calling lists with an updated version of the National DNC Registry every 31 days.

Learn more about do-not-call lists

In this guide, we have provided just some of the measures that telemarketers must follow in order to comply with the National DNC Registry requirements.

As mentioned, there are other state-specific regulations and federal laws, such as the TSR and the TCPA, that also apply to telemarketing campaigns. To understand your specific situation and needs, it is best to discuss your telemarketing plans with a lawyer before launching a campaign to ensure that you comply with the law.

If you would like to learn more about how to run a compliant telemarketing campaign, we can help. Please contact us at or (212) 246-0900

The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. Each situation is unique, and you should not act or rely on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.

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Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

This post was originally published on September 17, 2020, and updated on August 26, 2021.

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David Klein

David Klein is one of the most recognized attorneys in the technology, Internet marketing, sweepstakes, and telecommunications fields. Skilled at counseling clients on a broad range of technology-related matters, David Klein has substantial experience in negotiating and drafting complex licensing, marketing and Internet agreements.
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