FCC Adopts Reassigned Number Database, But Includes Safe Harbor; Gives Carriers Power to Block Text Messages

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday unanimously approved the creation of a reassigned number database that callers will be able to use to see if a phone number that was once believed to be assigned to an individual has been reassigned to someone else. The database is aimed at reducing the number of unwanted phone calls individuals receive.

Perhaps most importantly to the ARM industry, the FCC also approved a safe harbor from liability for any calls that are made to reassigned numbers as a result of database error. A number of financial services industry trade groups, including ACA International, has lobbied for some form of safe harbor should a call to a reassigned number make it through. The safe harbor should provide some comfort to callers, including collection agencies, and not discourage them from making calls to individuals.

In addressing the safe harbor, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said, “The costs of creating, maintaining, and using the database will be significant, and we simply cannot justify it without providing a corresponding benefit to callers who pay to use it. In all reality, this database will always be imperfect, meaning, despite our action effectively requiring callers to use it, users will still need to be shielded from pointless lawsuits. This is a critical improvement to the item.”

He added, “Today’s action is a positive development in reversing the previous FCC’s deeply-flawed 2015 TCPA Order. However, much more work remains, particularly on narrowing the prior Commission’s ludicrous definition of “autodialer,” and eliminating the lawless revocation of consent rule. I am optimistic that our next steps will go a long way in reading the TCPA in a logical way and limiting wasteful and frivolous TCPA litigation that does nothing to protect consumers or stop illegal robocalls.”

Carriers would also have to wait 45 days before reassigning a number, according to a published report.

Also yesterday, the FCC voted to classify text messages as “information services” and not “telecommunications services,” which will allow carriers to monitor the content of text messages and keep messages they deem as “spam” from being sent to individuals’ cell phones. Had they been classified as telecommunications services, like phone calls, the content would not have been allowed to be monitored. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the proposal.

“Today’s decision offers consumers no new ability to prevent robotexts,” she said.”It simply provides that carriers can block our text messages and censor the very content of those messages themselves.”

There are concerns that carriers could choose to censor text messages where they object to the content on moral or political grounds.


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One comment

  1. This is the problem with the carriers being able to block or label calls as spam. They are already doing this, labeling collection calls as spam and even blocking them to their subscribers. The carriers and other apps should not have the ability to make that decision on behalf of the consumer.

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