Consumers must wonder why they are getting calls aimed at strangers. As those in the business know, it happens because telemarketing companies acquire lists of numbers to call. Where these numbers come from are not always consistent, however. The previous owners of a consumer's phone number may have agreed to receive these phone calls. Companies however don't realize that the number has been reassigned. They keep calling the new owner, which is an intrusion for them and a waste of your company's resources. Everyone suffers when the numbers are not accurate.
FCC Announces Reassigned Number Database
Not everyone keeps their phone number when they switch services or have a life change. Each year, around 35 million phone numbers are disconnected and then reassigned to different users. Calls meant for the previous owners are subsequently placed. The FCC has taken action to address this issue in conjunction with its STIR/SHAKEN call authentication network to combat robocalls.
The Federal Communications Commission has mandated that a dedicated database be created to track these reassigned numbers in order to end the call confusion. Since the end of July 2020, the FCC has required voice service providers to maintain data for this Reassigned Number Database. Smaller voice service providers, those having 100,000 or fewer subscriber lines, have an extra six months to comply. However, they are expected to do their part when January 27, 2021 rolls around.
This order is only a first step since it just requires that providers begin collecting the data. The FCC will only issue compliance dates for sending the data to the database after it has been established. Consumers will have to wait months or perhaps years to see an actual reduction on these calls.
What Does this Action Mean for Call Centers?
The consumer advantages of this database are obvious, but it will also benefit call centers. Calling the wrong number wastes the time of businesses that want to target legitimate leads. It will also prevent call centers from exposing themselves to lawsuits.
Using the database will be simple. Call centers and other businesses can simply scrub any new numbers they purchase against the list. As such, this allows companies to make sure they do not contact a reassigned number. The database will essentially track the last permanent disconnection of a mobile number.
Also, using this list will protect you from TCPA liability if the federal database is incorrect. Your company will be investing time and energy into scrubbing databases, but you should enjoy fewer misdirected calls. After all, you want your representatives busy contacting the right people instead of apologizing to the wrong ones.
Reassigned Number Database Comes at a Cost
While this is a great idea on paper for consumers, with potential benefits for businesses, the cost of the endeavor is still unknown. The government is not planning to cover all of the project costs, so businesses will have to pay. Currently, the following FCC NANC proposals for reimbursement are under consideration:
- The database vendor should “identify separately the costs for the development of the RND, and the ongoing administration costs of the RND.”
- Service providers, who will be paying to create the database should “only recover those funds that were collected in the funding process.”
- The creation of a tiered pricing structure would decrease the cost-per-query.
Until the pricing is established, you have reason to be a little uneasy about your ultimate contribution to the Reassigned Number Database. At this point, the industry must hope for modest pricing. This will essentially pay for itself through increased company efficiency.
Since the database is under construction, it's not currently helpful to anyone. Fortunately, consumers do not have to wait to take action against misdirected marketing or robocalls. They can register their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call registry. They should see a marked reduction in these calls about a month after they sign up for this federal list. However, some telemarketers will ignore the DNC registry and continue to contact consumers even though doing so is illegal.
If they continue to receive these calls 31 days after registering, consumers should report the violators to the FTC. Their online process is simple and convenient, and reporting offenders benefits everyone who receives unsolicited calls. Plus, legitimate telemarketers encourage these efforts as well.
Finding the balance between consumer protection and business profitability is always a tough task. And when the FCC gets involved, you may worry that it will cost your business more than it will benefit it. While it will be several years before the cost/benefit ratio of the RND is known, you have some reason to be optimistic.
The list primarily will benefit consumers but should also help your sales efforts by eliminating bad numbers. And as you are well aware, your company brand takes a hit whenever a consumer feels targeted by uninvited calls. As long as the maintenance process isn't onerous or the fee structure too high, the RND may be a good thing for companies and consumers.