On Wednesday the Federal Communications Commission voted to create a database of reassigned phone numbers to help companies avoid costly Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violation fines by keeping track of phone numbers abandoned by consumers. The database will be administered by a private company, to be chosen through a bidding process, and will hopefully cut down on the number of misdirected calls.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated that “This reassigned numbers database will enable callers to verify — before calling a number — whether it’s been permanently disconnected and is therefore eligible for reassignment. In other words, they’ll be able to avoid calling numbers that have been or could’ve been reassigned to someone else.”
Additionally, the database includes a “safe harbor” to protect callers from penalties if they consult the database prior to making calls.
The Fight Against Robocalls
So far, the database has been positively received by the industry as a step forward in the FCC’s fight against robocalls. However, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly expressed concern over operating costs at times of peak demand – noting other attempts to curb robocalls, such as the Do-Not-Call Registry, that have been costly and ineffective. “Only the honest and legitimate callers will consult the reassigned numbers database — not the criminals and scammers,” said O’Rielly.
He continued, stating that “Much more work remains, particularly on narrowing the prior commission’s ludicrous definition of “autodialer,” and eliminating the lawless revocation of consent rule,” and adding that perhaps the Commission could instead spend its efforts on better readings of the TCPA.