In the process of selecting a telephone answering service for your business, it is important to determine if the companies you are considering are knowledgeable and compliant with the laws that govern the privacy and security issues relevant to recorded phone calls. With over 35 years of experience, Northwest Telephone Answering Service is a leading answering service expert. We dedicate time to ensuring that our staff is properly trained and fully compliant with laws that affect this industry.
When you hire a telephone answering service, you are hiring an extension of your company. And an important one at that. The answering service you hire will be the first interaction your existing and potential clients will have. How that answering service responds to the clients’ calls affects the livelihood of your business and can bring a company ruin if they do not adhere to all state and federal laws.
What laws should an answering service agent know?
There are laws every answering service should know. Additionally, various industries have specific regulations they are expected to adhere to as well. Ensuring that the answering service you hire is not only aware of these laws but comfortable answering questions about how these laws are followed is imperative.
Laws for any industry
- The Federal Communications Act
Receiving intimidating or continuous phone calls constitutes harassment, and it is illegal at the federal and state levels. The Federal Communications Act prohibits phone harassment and enforces it through monetary fines as well as imprisonment. Our agents are fully aware of what constitutes harassment and scam calls and are thoroughly trained on how to handle the situation appropriately.
- The Federal Wiretap Act
Federal and state wiretapping laws may limit your answering service company’s ability to record calls they take on your business’s behalf. The legal question at the center of all of these laws is whether your business (and anyone representing it) must obtain consent from one or all of the parties on a phone call or conversation before recording it. Federal law and state wiretapping statutes in many states permit recording if one party (including you) on the phone call or conversation consents, while some states require that all parties on the phone call consent to being recorded. The answering services company that you are considering hiring should know what states your company intends to operate in and the laws governing this interaction in each state.
- The Federal Trade Commission Act
Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this act protects private information. Entities must implement and maintain reasonable protection measures when it comes to handling personal data. This includes taking proper steps to secure the information, as well as succeeding in protecting that information.
Laws that pertain to specific industries
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)
If your company is involved in the medical industry, it is crucial that any answering service company you select be compliant with the federal government’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In addition to other things, the act requires the protection and confidential handling of “protected health information” (PHI) – which includes messages that are transmitted to health care providers. Under the act, telephone answering services are considered “business associates,” which is defined as a person or entity that performs certain functions or activities that involve the use or disclosure of PHI on behalf of a covered entity (your medical industry company). Make certain that you ask for the answering service’s HIPAA protocols and that you are comfortable that it is compliant because not complying is costly. Fines for HIPAA violations range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or breached record) with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year.
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
Organizations that work with children must ensure that personal information is kept safe online. Although this act is specific to the sharing of children’s information online, many answering services offer Internet services, including messaging and Internet faxing. This act seeks explicitly to protect children’s information on websites, emails, or message boards. Agents must understand how to handle minors’ personal information and keep it confidential, no matter how it is shared. Violations against this act can cost up to $43,792 per violation.
- Gramm Leach Bliley Act
This act specifically protects information collected and used by banking and financial institutions. Financial institutions must make customers aware of how their data is collected and used and when and how that information may need to be shared. There are 3 separate sections of this law: The Privacy Rule, The Safeguards Rule, and The Pretexting Provisions. Answering service agents must understand the security measures in place by financial institutions to adequately protect this information. Financial institutions can be fined upwards of $100,000 for violations of this law.
Northwest Telephone Answering Service Is A Trusted Resource
Founded in 1970, Northwest Telephone Answering Service is an experienced answering and dispatch service provider. We proudly offer the latest technologies and reliable, affordable service for a variety of business categories. We readily customize each of our accounts per the requirements of the client so you can feel confident you are receiving exactly the services you need.
*This blog should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation.