FCC Creates Reassigned Numbers Database

The FCC has voted to create a single, comprehensive database of reassigned phone numbers, and has provided a safe harbor from "do not call" liability for database errors that lead to calls (or robocalls) to those reassigned numbers.

The FCC is trying to insulate calls in error from liability and potential lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The issue is when a consumer gives a business permission to call them, but then the number is reassigned to someone else who did not give permission.

The FCC is giving businesses a one-stop shop for determining if their calls are going to the right party by checking to see if a number has been disconnected. It is also establishing a 45-day waiting period before a number can be reassigned.

FCC chair Ajit Pai said avoiding confusion benefits everyone, those changing numbers, and businesses trying to contact them. The database will be administered by an outside party.

Pai said the safe harbor will make sure a responsible caller will not be liable for database error.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she detests robocalls and thus backed the decision, but also said the FCC needs to do more. She also pointed out that there is no deadline for implementation of the database while she said there is a robocall crisis now.

She said she thought every consumer should get free access to robocall blocking tools, and said she had written to the major carriers Wednesday asking them to make such tools available for free and invited her colleagues to support that effort.

Pai said the FCC was pursuing a comprehensive approach to robocalls and that there was no one solution. He did not volunteer his support. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.