Best Practices

Demystifying Telemarketer State Registration Requirements

If your company engages in phone sales, you may need to register as a telemarketer in certain states. This article outlines the registration requirements, applicable exemptions, and other crucial details for compliance. Learn about state-specific laws, fees, bonds, and renewal processes to ensure your telemarketing operations adhere to legal standards. Whether you're a telephone seller, telephonic seller, or commercial telephone seller, understanding these regulations is essential for lawful business practices across the U.S.

Applicable Telemarketer Exemptions

When to Register

Registration Fees, Bonds, and Other Costs

Telemarketer Renewal Requirements

If your company engages in certain types of phone sales, it may need to register as a telemarketer in certain states. For example, if your company calls residents of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, or Texas, it may need to register if the company qualifies as a “telephone seller,” “telephonic seller, “or “commercial telephone seller.”

In the aforementioned states, a “telephone seller,” “telephonic seller, “or “commercial telephone seller” is defined as any person who makes commercial telephone solicitations for the purchase of goods and services or receipt of a prize or gift.

In Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, the registration requirement applies to “telephone solicitors” or "telephone soliciting businesses," which is defined as a person who engages in telephone solicitations on his own behalf or through agents and representatives.

In New Jersey, registration is required of any “person who attempts or makes unsolicited telemarketing sales calls,” which are calls placed as part of a plan, program, or campaign to incentivize the purchase or rental of, or investment in, merchandise.

Within Delaware, Kentucky, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia, the requirement applies to “telemarketing sellers or businesses,” “telemarketing companies,” and “telemarketers,” which are defined as a person who, for commercial or marketing purposes, initiates or receives telephone calls to or from a customer in those states.

New Hampshire and Tennessee only require telemarketing companies to register if they use an autodialing system to call residents of those states, while Maine requires “transient sellers,” (those with no principal place of business within the state) to register. South Dakota requires charitable organizations that solicit contributions within the state to register.

The following states currently have no telemarketer registration requirements: Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Applicable Telemarketer Exemptions

As with most statutes, those mandating telemarketer registration include numerous exemptions. For example, in Arkansas and Colorado, registered sellers of securities and supervised financial institutions are exempt from registration, and in Arkansas, the requirement does not apply to insurance sellers or anyone making solicitations without the intent to complete a sale over the phone.

In Alabama, a “commercial telephone seller” does not include anyone engaging in telephone solicitations that are isolated transactions or place calls for religious, charitable, educational, political, or other noncommercial purposes.

In Colorado, anyone placing calls for political, charitable, or religious purposes is exempt from that state’s registration requirement, while in D.C., it does not apply to companies placing calls in reliance upon an existing business relationship. And in Maine, registration is not required of anyone who sells exclusively by mail and requires the recipient to pay something of value to participate in a contest.

Finally, in nearly all jurisdictions, companies that only place sales calls with the prior consent of the called party are exempt from registration.

When to Register

For companies subject to a state’s telemarketer registration requirement, the timeframe in which they must register also varies by jurisdiction. The following states only require that registration be completed before the company starts transacting business there: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

However, in the states of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Rhode Island, companies must register at least 10 days before transacting business there, while companies are required to register at least 30 days in advance of doing business in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. In D.C. and West Virginia, companies must register at least 60 days before commencing business, while Wisconsin and Wyoming have no specific timeframe in which companies are required to register.

Registration Fees, Bonds, and Other Costs

Some states charge prospective telemarketers a nominal registration fee while others do not. However, some states, namely Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Mane, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah, require telemarketers to post a bond in connection with registration, the amount of which can range from $10,000 to $100,000.

In those states that require registration and also maintain a state-specific Do-Not-Call registry, telemarketers must also pay a separate subscription fee to access the DNC registry.

Telemarketer Renewal Requirements

After jumping through the initial hoops of registration, most states require registered telemarketers to renew their registrations on an annual basis, but the annual renewal requirement does not apply in Alaska, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The good news is that registration applies to all covered communications (telephone solicitations, telephonic sales calls, etc.) that might be made by that entity, meaning that separate registrations are not required for each campaign. Likewise, once the required bond has been obtained, it remains in effect until the company's registration is canceled.