In the US, the FCC has approved the rules for a single comprehensive centralized database of reassigned cell phone numbers, described by the Insights Association as 'an important initial step in reducing class action liability for marketing researchers'.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) decided on 12th December that such a database was the best way for voice service providers to notify dialers and 'aggregators' (including research sample providers) about reassigned numbers, addressing what the IA's VP Advocacy Howard Fienberg calls 'one of the most ridiculous problems in the 2015 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules'. However Feinberg says that 'While the database will help improve TCPA compliance, the FCC still hasn't acted on the bigger picture necessity: TCPA reform'.
The FCC estimates that 35 million numbers are disconnected and made available for reassignment to new consumers each year, and yet the 2015 TCPA rules give callers only one call - whether or not answered by a human - to establish that a number they are dialing, for which they thought they had prior express consent to call, has been reassigned to a new subscriber. FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly said at the time that 'the exemption does not require consumers to accurately inform the caller that the number has been reassigned; ignores the worthlessness of uninformative voicemails; and even counts call attempts or informational texts where there was no response at all against the one call policy. Moreover, accidental misdials receive no protection whatsoever'.
The rules will require a minimum aging period of 45 days before permanently disconnected telephone numbers can be reassigned, and require voice service providers to report information to the database monthly. All carriers including 'wireless, wireline, and interconnected VoIP providers' must report to the database, which will be managed by an independent third-party administrator, using a competitive bidding process. Telephone sample providers will be permitted to access the database on behalf of their clients.
The IA notes that 'While the DC Circuit Court struck down much of the 2015 TCPA rules early this year, as the Insights Association and others involved in the case had requested, the FCC has yet to issue new regulations reforming the TCPA more broadly as demanded by the court decision, such as clarifying the definition of an autodialer'. Fienberg concludes: 'The marketing research and data analytics industry faces an intolerable number of costly TCPA class action litigation. The database won't be launched overnight, so even lawsuits resulting from simple reassigned numbers will continue. It is past time for the FCC to deliver new rules, providing some certainty to dialers and cutting off the serial plaintiffs' TCPA cash spigot'.
Web site: www.insightsassociation.org .
All articles 2006-18 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.