Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved the establishment of a single, comprehensive database of permanently disconnected phone numbers. The decision, which comes after years of advocacy work from RILA, the Retail Litigation Center, and our members will not only help stop the ever-increasing number of robocalls and unwanted phone calls to consumers, but also provides a mechanism for legitimate callers to ensure compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
In addition to helping retailers avoid calling reassigned numbers, the database will give companies an important TCPA compliance tool, as well as significant protection from TCPA claims and litigation.
Some key highlights of the FCC's order are below.
- Establishment of a single, comprehensive database that will enable caller to determine if a telephone number has been permanently disconnected and therefore eligible for reassignment. No deadline was set for the establishment of the database.
- All telecommunications companies will be required to report permanently disconnected numbers monthly. Small telecommunications companies will be given an additional 6 months to begin reporting.
- To ensure the accuracy of the database, all telecommunications companies must wait at least 45 days before reassigning a previously permanently disconnected number.
- The new comprehensive database will be developed and administered by an independent third-party entity chosen through a competitive bidding process.
- All database users (i.e., telecommunication companies, callers including retailers, banks, hotels etc.) will pay user fees for access. The revenue from user fees will fund the database's ongoing operational costs. Initial startup costs for the database will be funded by the telecommunications companies, which will be refunded through future offsets to user fees.
- Importantly for RILA members, the order creates a safe harbor for database users from TCPA liability for any calls made inadvertently to reassigned numbers caused by database error.
RILA has long advocated for updated TCPA guidelines that create commonsense rules that protect consumers and businesses alike. Three recent comment letters filed by the Association to the FCC, with support from Meredith Slawe and her colleagues at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, can be accessed here (8/28/17), here (6/7/18), and here (7/9/18). The official announcement from the FCC can be found here and additional background on this issue can be found here.
Following this order, RILA will continue to urge the FCC to eliminate unnecessary and overly burdensome regulatory requirements while continuing to protect consumer interests.
For more information about RILA's TCPA advocacy work, please reach out to Deputy General Counsel Kathleen McGuigan.