Last month, the Governor of Connecticut signed SB 1058 into law. Among several other topics, this far-reaching consumer protection bill modifies the state’s telemarketing statute.
Like all laws, the Connecticut statute uses definitions to dictate its scope. The statute’s inconsistent use of defined and undefined terms, however, makes it challenging to ascertain which requirements apply to which types of communications. Let’s start with the following key definitions:
Telephonic sales call
- Includes voice calls, automated dialing systems, recorded messages, soundboard technology, text messages, and over-the-top messages (text-based communications sent via an internet platform) initiated for the purpose of engaging in “marketing or sales solicitation” or for other specified purposes.
- Excludes communications made in response to consumer inquiries, with the consumer’s written consent, to existing customers that have not opted out, and/or to business contacts, among others.
- Persons who make or cause to be made telephonic sales calls, initiate the sale, lease or rental of consumer goods or services, or offer gifts or prizes with the intent to sell, lease, or rent consumers goods or services by any of the following means:
- Telephonic means;
- Television, radio, or printed advertisements that solicit inbound calls; or
- The communication types covered under the definition of telephonic sales call.
Because the definition of telemarketer does not necessarily require a telephonic sales call, an entity may be a telemarketer even if it does not technically make telephonic sales calls as defined in the law (including related communication types).
Under the amended law:
- Any person can be held liable for providing substantial assistance to the initiator of a voice communication or telephonic sales call that violates the law.
- Telemarketers must:
- Comply with amended contract and payment processing requirements;
- Comply with slightly expanded prohibitions against caller ID spoofing (no longer tied to intentionality); and
- Obtain written consent to make, or cause to be made, calls to phone numbers not on the National DNC Registry for the purpose of “marketing, selling, or soliciting sales.”
Note: the scope of this requirement is ambiguous. The statute defines “marketing or sales solicitation” (which excludes calls made with written consent and calls made pursuant to an established business relationship), but does not define the phrase “marketing, selling, or soliciting sales” or these individual terms.
Entities making telephonic sales calls must:
- Limit communications to the permissible hours of 9am to 8pm;
- Make introductory disclosures within 10 seconds;
- Ask at the beginning of the call whether the consumer wishes to continue the call, end the call, or be placed on the caller’s internal Do Not Call (DNC) list;
- Terminate calls within 10 seconds of a request to do so by the consumer;
- Comply with expanded DNC rules (confirm the business will process the request, end the call within 10 seconds, prevent calls to any number associated with that consumer, and refrain from selling or disclosing the consumer’s personal information for value); and
- Have written consent to make telephonic sales calls.
Note: it is unclear why the state included this requirement. Communications made with written consent are expressly excluded from the definition of telephonic sales call.
Violations of the law are subject to civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation plus remedies available under the state’s consumer protection statute. This includes potential class actions to recover actual damages and attorneys’ fees. Given the potentially stiff penalties, businesses should proceed with caution when contacting Connecticut residents without written consent. Oddly, the risk is highest with respect to consumers whose numbers are not on the National DNC Registry.
The amended law becomes effective October 1, 2023.
Nick is a Partner at M&S where he leads the firm’s Compliance practice areas. He brings more than a decade of experience helping clients understand and comply with federal and state privacy, advertising, and telemarketing laws and regulations.