The final rules include a safe harbor from liability for calls to reassigned numbers caused by errors in the database.
After a unanimous vote on the database rules Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission will take additional steps to create a reassigned numbers database to enable callers to verify the status of a phone number and help protect consumers with reassigned numbers from receiving unwanted calls.
Although the draft order did not address the safe harbor, a news release from the FCC and comments today indicate the final rules include an important safe harbor liability provision for callers supported by ACA International.The safe harbor protects callers from liability for any calls to reassigned numbers caused by errors in the database, according to the FCC.
The approved report on Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls was released Thursday.
ACA International filed comments with the FCC in support of its efforts to combat illegal and fraudulent calls, while reiterating the need for clear interpretations of the TCPA. ACA supported efforts to develop a concise reassigned numbers database in June, urging that it be reasonably priced, accurate and easy to use and include a safe harbor.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Commissioner Brendan Carr said during their remarks at the FCC’s Open Commission Meeting Dec. 12 that the reassigned numbers database proposal should include a safe harbor liability for callers.
The FCC previously indicated that it will address the issue of a safe harbor in its order concerning the ACA lawsuit, which is expected in early 2019, ACA International previously reported.
“To ensure the businesses have the incentive to use that database I and others ask that we include a safe harbor provision in the proposal,” Carr said. “It’s not going to end the surge of robocalls completely … we’re doing a lot of work to get to that point.”
The approved order includes the following steps for the reassigned numbers database:
- Establish a single, comprehensive reassigned numbers database that will enable callers to verify whether a telephone number has been permanently disconnected, and is therefore eligible for reassignment, before calling that number.
- A minimum aging period of 45 days before permanently disconnected telephone numbers can be reassigned.
- Voice providers that receive North American Numbering Plan numbers and the Toll Free Numbering Administrator would report on a monthly basis information regarding permanently disconnected numbers to the database.
- Select an independent third-party administrator, using a competitive bidding process, to manage the reassigned numbers database.
“While I am hopeful that the database will accomplish its intended purpose it would be naïve to think that it will comprehensively fix the reassigned numbers problem,” O’Rielly said during the meeting. “Informing our expectations, we should be wise to keep in mind the costly and ineffective do not call registry, which never stops bad actors from calling those on the list. Ultimately only the honest and legitimate callers will consult the reassigned numbers database, not the criminals or the scammers. Today’s action is a positive development in reversing the previous deeply flawed TCPA order. However much more work remains regarding the ludicrous definition of autodialer and mitigating the lawless revocation of consent rule.”
The reassigned numbers database rules respond to consumer groups, trade associations, and state and federal authorities that asked the commission to establish a single, comprehensive database as the best solution to reducing calls to reassigned numbers while minimizing burdens on both callers and providers, according to a news release from the FCC.
Read more analysis of the reassigned numbers database proposal from ACA International’s Vice President and Senior Counsel of Federal Advocacy Leah Dempsey here. ACA International will also be hosting an online seminar with more information on this topic with more details to come.
Meanwhile, the FCC also approved rules to deny requests from mass-texting companies and other parties to classify text messaging services as “telecommunications services” subject to common carrier regulation under the Communications Act—a classification that would limit wireless providers’ efforts to combat spam and scam robotexts effectively during Wednesday’s meeting. The rules were approved 3-1 with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissenting.
Instead, the FCC finds that two forms of wireless messaging services, SMS and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), are “information services” under the Communications Act. With this decision, the FCC empowers wireless providers to continue taking action to protect American consumers from unwanted text messages, according to a news release. Last week, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and several other Democratic senators sent a letter to the FCC opposing the rules, ACA International previously reported.
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