KNOWLEDGE BASE Telephone Marketing Regulations In The US

 The information on this page was current at the time it was published. Regulations, trends, statistics, and other information are constantly changing. While we strive to update our Knowledge Base, we strongly suggest you use these pages as a general guide and be sure to verify any regulations, statistics, guidelines, or other information that are important to your efforts.


Telephone Marketing In The United States


There are a number of federal and state laws and regulations that govern telephone marketing in the United States. Because they can differ significantly state to state, you should make sure you are familiar with both the federal laws and regulations and those of the state or states in which you conduct business.


Federal Laws and Regulations

The primary federal regulation surrounding email marketing in the US is the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), issued and amended by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

To whom does the Telemarketing Sales Rule apply?

The Telemarketing Sales Rule applies to you (companies and individuals) if you use telemarketing as a part of your marketing campaigns. The TSR applies to both intrastate and interstate telemarketing calls and it applies to all calls to consumers in the US, even if you (the caller) are outside the US. Furthermore, the rule applies to you whether you initiate or receive the call. Exceptions to this rule include:

  • unsolicited calls from consumers;

  • calls placed by consumers in response to a catalog;

  • business-to-business calls that do not involve retail sales of nondurable office or cleaning supplies;

  • calls made in response to general media advertising (with some important exceptions); and

  • calls made in response to direct mail advertising (with some important exceptions).


How do I comply with the Telemarketing Sales Rule?

As a telemarketer, you have a number of obligations under the TSR. The key provisions include:

  • Prohibition against calling any consumers who have put their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

  • Requirement to disclose specific information to consumers.

  • Prohibition against misrepresentation.

  • Limitations to when telemarketers may call consumers.

  • Requirement of transmission of Caller ID information.

  • Prohibition of abandoned outbound call, subject to safe harbor.

  • Prohibition against unauthorized billing.

  • Set payment restrictions for the sale of certain goods and services.

  • Requirement that specific business records be kept for two years.


Do Not Call Provisions:

Under the TSF, you are prohibited from calling a consumer who has told you previously asked that you not call him as well as anyone who is on the Do Not Call Registry. You are responsible for maintaining your own ‘do not call list’ and checking the National Registry. You must synchronize your list(s) with an updated version of the National Registry every 31 days.

Access to the National Registry is limited to sellers, telemarketers, and other service providers. The FTC has a fully automated and secure website that will provide you with access to the National Registry’s database of telephone numbers. You must register for and pay an access fee as a seller, telemarketer, or service provider.


Required Disclosures:

Under the TSR, you are required to disclose certain material information before a consumer pays for goods or services. Material information is the information a consumer needs to make an informed decisions about whether to purchase the goods or services. This information may be provided to consumers either orally or in writing, but must be made in a clear and conspicuous manner. Information is presented in a clear and conspicuous way if presented in a way that a consumer will notice and understand. In writing this means the print is the same type and size as the offer print with the same emphasis and it is not buried on the back or bottom or with other unrelated content. When disclosures are made orally, the information should be conveyed in an understandable speed and pace and in the same tone and volume as the sales offer.

The TSR specifics the following categories of material information that you must provide to consumers:

  1. Cost and quantity information;

  2. Material restrictions, limitations, or conditions that apply;

  3. No-refund policy, if you have one;

  4. Prize promotion information, if applicable;

  5. Credit card loss protection information; and

  6. Negative option features, if applicable.


Call Time Restrictions:

Unless you have a consumer’s prior consent to do otherwise, it is violation of the TSR to make outbound telemarketing calls to the person’s home outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Because state laws may vary, you should ensure youre compliance with state hour restrictions as well.


Prerecorded Message Prohibition:

The TSR expressly prohibits outbound telemarketing calls that deliver a prerecorded message unless you have obtained the recipient’s prior signed, written agreement to receive such calls from you. This prohibition applies to all prerecorded messages, regardless of whether they are answered by a person or by an answering machine. With very specific exceptions, this prohibition applies to all calls that deliver a prerecorded message, even if the phone number called is not listed on the National Registry.


What are the risks of noncompliance?

The Telemarketing Sales Rule is enforced by the FTC and state attorneys general, both of which work to combat telemarketing fraud, give consumers added privacy protections and defenses against unscrupulous telemarketers, and help consumers tell the difference between fraudulent and legitimate telemarketing. The FTC, states, and private citizens may bring civil actions in federal district courts to enforce the TSR. Private citizens may bring an action to enforce the TSR if they have suffered $50,000 or more in actual damages.


If you violate the TSR you are subject to civil penalties of up to $50,120 per violation.The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the authority to impose even higher financial penalties for particularly harmful or deceptive practices. In addition, you may be subject to nationwide injunctions that prohibit certain conduct, and you may be required to pay redress to injured consumers.


State laws and regulations







Telemarketing Sales Rule

Federal Trade Commission

FTC: Complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule

National Do Not Call Registry 

KNOWLEDGE BASE Telephone Marketing Regulations In The US