Why The FCC’s Reassigned Number Database May Not Help Collectors

The reassigned number database, adopted last week by the Federal Communications Commission, may not be of any use to the collections industry, if it ultimately ends up being created as it has been proposed. 

In speaking with an industry compliance expert yesterday, I was asked if I had read the proposed rule. Admitting I had not yet gone through it, it was pointed out to me that there are some significant issues with it, and the database is likely to have little or no value to the ARM industry because of the data the FCC plans to include in the database. 

For example, the FCC is proposing that anyone looking to use the database, like a collection agency, will have access to the following information at its fingertips:

  • The name of the consumer the caller wants to reach;
  • A telephone number associated with that consumer; and
  • A date on which the caller could be confident that the consumer
    was still associated with that number (e.g., the last date the caller made contact with the consumer at that number; the date the consumer last provided that number to the caller; or the date the caller obtained consent to call the consumer)

In many cases, when an account is placed with a collection agency, either for the first time, or if it is being moved from one agency to another, information about the last time a right-party contact was made is not included in the transfer. So a collection agency may likely have no confidence in establishing a date in which the consumer was likely associated with that number. It may be years after an account was created, in some cases. 

Second, the database is intended to only provide a “yes” or “no” answer when queried. Users would submit a phone number and a date and the database will let the user know whether the number has been reassigned since the date that was entered. It will not tell you when the phone number was disconnected, just if it was disconnected after the date the user entered into the query. 

“So what if the user just puts in a date from last week,” I asked? 

“Then the system would tell them if the number had been reassigned in the past week, which is likely not going to be the case,” my rule making guru replied back to me. “And if a collection agency puts in a date from three or four years ago, the database may say that the number has been reassigned since then, but won’t tell you when the number was reassigned. The idea of this database sounds good, but it likely will have no value to collectors.” 

For the database to have value to collectors, they would need to start keeping track of the last time that a right-party contact was made, and sharing that information when an account is placed with another agency. Without that data point, the FCC’s database will likely have little value to the ARM industry.  

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