FCC Continues Consideration of a Reassigned Numbers Database
Following July’s Notice of Inquiry, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the creation of a reassigned numbers database at its next open meeting March 22.
3/8/2018 8:58 AM
The Federal Communications Commission will consider a second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to address the problem of unwanted calls to reassigned numbers through the creation of a reassigned numbers database at its meeting March 22.
According to a fact sheet on the FNPRM, released by the FCC in advance of the March Open Meeting, the second FNPRM would:
- Propose to ensure that one or more databases are available to provide callers with the comprehensive and timely information they need to avoid calling reassigned numbers.
- Seek comment on the information that callers who choose to use a reassigned numbers database need from such a database.
- Seek comment on the best way for service providers to report that information and for callers to access that information, including the following three alternatives:
(1) requiring service providers to report reassigned number information to a single, FCC-designated database;
(2) requiring service providers to report that information to one or more commercial data aggregators; or
(3) allowing service providers to report that information to commercial data aggregators on a voluntary basis.
- Seek comment on whether, and if so, how the commission should adopt a safe harbor from liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for those callers that choose to use a reassigned numbers database.
The FCC acknowledges that, in the current environment, the risks of TCPA violations may cause some callers to stop making lawful calls altogether for concern of reaching a consumer with a reassigned number and not the appropriate party. Thus, according to the FCC, a reassigned numbers database for callers who choose to use it will benefit consumers by reducing unwanted calls intended for another consumer while helping callers avoid the costs of calling the wrong consumer, including potential violations of the TCPA.
The FCC started to explore creating a database to share reassigned number information with callers in July 2017 through a Notice of Inquiry.
Part of the current problem faced by legitimate businesses, and one that the FCC recognizes in last year’s NOI, is that “callers lack guaranteed methods to discover all reassignments immediately after they occur.” Without this information, a caller has no way to know for certain that prior express consent provided by a consumer is actually reliable, subjecting callers to potential ruinous liability for each call placed to a wireless number. As a result, legitimate businesses struggle to balance contacting consumers who have provided prior express consent with avoiding the risk of TCPA liability caused by the inadvertent dialing of a reassigned number.
ACA International weighed in on this issue through comments on the reassigned number database NOI in August 2017.
In the comments, ACA stated that although a reassigned number database could be useful in some respects, ACA does not believe that the establishment of such a database is the best or most appropriate shield to protect businesses from the unfair and potentially ruinous TCPA liability that can come along with inadvertently dialing a reassigned number. In addition, ACA asserted that such a database would impose enormous burdens on legitimate businesses while illegal robocallers would continue their harmful practices, thereby resulting in heavy compliance costs for likely little benefit.
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