Cell Phone Survey Regulations

As all of you savvy marketers and market researchers know, it's getting harder and harder to reach respondents and keep response rates up in the United States.�This is true of all research methodologies.�One of the key factors considered to be contributing to the issue is how busy average Americans keeps themselves, leaving little time for taking surveys or other more leisurely activities.�Other factors are the various acts of government legislation, such as the Federal Trade Commissions' (FCC) Do-Not-Call list, various state anti-spam laws as well as the Federal Can-Spam Act, and the more recent Federal Communications Commission regulations regarding reaching cell phone users via automated dialing, a technique used for the overwhelming majority of consumer surveys.

In an order released on September 21, 2004, the FCC adopted a fifteen day safe harbor for calls made using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialed) or prerecorded message to a recently ported (landline number switched to a cell phone) wireless phone number in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 ("TCPA").�The Commission arrived at its decision by balancing the desire of the public to be free from unwanted calls with the technical limitations on callers' abilities to continually update call lists to remove ported numbers. The FCC felt that providing companies with this safe harbor would not infringe upon consumers' privacy rights because of its limited duration and consumers' ability to prevent all unsolicited calls through the National DNC Registry.

What does this mean to researchers?�It does force all of us to spend the additional time and money bumping our lists up against known cell phone lists for scrubbing, which can cost an extra several cents per record.�There are also issues with representative samples, as an estimated 2.5 percent of Americans have only cell phones with no traditional landline service�(there are 169 million cell phones in usage in the United States).�With time, it will become more and more important to represent that increasing portion of the population through weighting or other methods.�As with list scrubbing, making sure sample populations are representative will only add more cost and time to projects, however minimal.�The challenges can be overcome, but it is becoming that much more important to plan accordingly during the design and strategy phase of research projects.

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