Indiana law forbids calling Indianans using an automated dialing announcing device (ADAD) without either prior express consent, or a live introduction to get the respondent’s consent.
Consumer concern about annoying or un- or mis-identified automated telemarketing or political calls (a.k.a., “robocalls”), has driven Indiana to seek to curtail such calls. Unfortunately, the law, intended to protect consumers from unwanted automated calls, inadvertently circumscribes legitimate survey and opinion research calls in Indiana.
Indiana law defines an ADAD as "a device that (1) selects and dials telephone numbers; and (2) working alone or in conjunction with other equipment, disseminates a prerecorded or synthesized voice message to the telephone number called."
Indiana Code 24-5-14 has been the subject of a major court case between the state and a company that conducts automated political calls, FreeEats.com. FreeEats.com contends that the law violates the First Amendment. Justices held in a 4-1 decision in December 2011 that the state can continue enforcing an effective ban on robocalls and the Supreme Court of the U.S. denied an appeal request in October 2012. The case remains in limbo.
How survey, opinion and marketing researchers use automated polling
What is automated research? Some survey and opinion researchers (including major companies like Rasmussen, PPP and Survey USA) make use of interactive voice response (IVR), Touchtone Data Entry (TDE) or similar systems to conduct automated polls, sometimes referred to as “robopolls.” These automated research calls (which merely seek to elicit consumer or public opinion about goods, services, candidates, issues, or policies) employ a technique for interaction with a computer, usually in response to a recorded or synthesized voice. Responses can be captured through voice recognition or pushing telephone buttons.
- Opt Out Best Practices: The research profession’s best practices include offering an automated process to opt out of such calls and ensuring the number displayed on Caller ID can receive calls.
- Automated Polls are for Research Purposes Only: Bona fide research activities do not attempt to sway the opinion of a respondent, induce or suppress activity, sell any products, goods or services, or fundraise. Such attempts would be a violation of MRA’s Code of Research Standards.
Why some survey, opinion and marketing researchers use automated polling methods
Automated research studies can offer advantages over traditional research methods:
- They can often be implemented and completed faster
- They can offer significant cost savings.
- They are well suited to states or areas with smaller populations and media markets, where traditional polls -- which are more expensive -- are considered uneconomical (e.g., Indiana).
- They help avoid interviewer bias. After a few hours on the phone, fatigue can affect a human interviewer's delivery. With robopolls, the delivery and inflection can be constant across every call, resulting in a uniform survey free of interviewer bias.
Indiana Code 24-5-14 should exempt bona fide survey, opinion and marketing research calls.