On December 12, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a new rule to establish a reassigned number database. The database is intended to both enable callers to verify the status of phone numbers and help prevent consumers with reassigned numbers from receiving unsolicited telephone calls.
This Practice Guide offers a non-exhaustive, concise source of information to assist telemarketers on the details of the new rule. Telemarketers seeking guidance relating to their specific needs should speak to an attorney with experience in this field.
Making Use of the Database
The database is intended to include only the last date of permanent disconnection associated with a given phone number, with a minimum aging period of 45 days. Thereafter, callers will be able to query the database to determine whether a phone number had been reassigned since the date used as part of the query. The database will be updated on the 15th of every month.
Maintaining Contact Dates with Consumers
The FCC states: “All legitimate callers should have the telephone number associated with the consumer they are attempting to reach and either the date they contacted that consumer or the date on which the caller could be confident that the consumer could still be reached at that number.” Maintaining accurate contact dates will help callers determine if a number has been reassigned.
Safe Harbor for Callers
The FCC’s Order creates a narrowly-tailored safe harbor for callers that inadvertently contact a call recipient that had not consented to be called at a number that had been reassigned to him/her. The reason that the safe harbor should be viewed as narrowly-tailored is that it will only shield a caller from Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) liability in the event that the database returns an inaccurate result to the caller upon query.
Benefiting from the Safe Harbor
In order to attain the benefit of this new safe harbor, a telemarketer will need to be able to demonstrate that it appropriately maintained contact dates as detailed above. Receiving a “No” from the database provides the telemarketer confidence that the consumer can still be reached at that number. A “Yes” response indicates that a number was disconnected since the last good date and may have been reassigned to another consumer. Telemarketers should scrub against the database every 30 days to be certain that they will benefit from the safe harbor.
The FCC’s order required the North American Numbering Council (“NANC”) to file a report on the technical issues related to the development and implementation of the reassigned number database. The deadline to file the report on June 13, 2019 has been extended to September 13, 2019, despite NANC requesting an extension until April 13, 2020. However, there is no deadline for implementation and compliance with the rule will not be required until compliance dates are announced by the FCC in the Federal Register.