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Reassigned Phone Numbers: The "One Call" Rule Solution

Reassigned Phone Numbers: The "One Call" Rule Solution

Posted by Ben Stark on Mon, 09/18/2017 - 08:24

Update 12/3/2020

At the time that this blog entry was written, the "one call" rule was a relevant solution to the problem of reassigned numbers. However, in the wake of the D.C. Circuit's 2015 decision in ACA International v. FCC, the "one call" safe harbor no longer applies. There is currently no safe harbor for reassigned numbers. The FCC has said that it will eventually introduce a safe harbor for reassigned numbers in conjunction with the launch of its reassigned number database. But the implementation of the database has been repeatedly delayed and it is uncertain when it will occur. For more information about safe harbors, read our thought leadership article on the topic.

At the beginning of every telemarketing campaign you faithfully scrub cell phone numbers. But when your ATDS dials a cell phone are you sure the person answering is the same person that provided you with permission to call in the first place? The wrong answer could prove costly to your business as it has for many others. Even a large company like JPMorgan Chase paid a $3.75 million settlement for calling 675,000 reassigned numbers.

In today’s lawsuit-happy regulatory environment, businesses must exercise caution when interacting with consumers—even with those who provided express consent. It’s not enough to believe the phone number belongs to the consumer who gave consent. Every call you make establishes potential cause for consumers and serial litigator to initiate a lawsuit. Attorneys who specialize in filing TCPA complaints know that the FCC’s strict rules for reassigned numbers make it one of the easiest ways to justify lawsuits against telemarketers. 

What they don’t want you to know is that it is also one of the easiest for telemarketers to protect against when they partner with a qualified compliance provider. Contact Center Compliance, the industry leading compliance provider, recommends scrubbing your marketing lists against their database of reassigned numbers at the beginning of your telemarketing campaign.

What are reassigned numbers?

Before calling a cell phone using an ATDS, the TCPA requires consent from the current owner of the number, not the intended recipient of the call. Even responsible telemarketers who have already obtained express consent from the intended customer could be liable for a TCPA violation if the number has been reassigned to a different person.

How does number reassignment work?

Phone number reassignment refers to the event after a number has been deactivated or disconnected and then later reassigned to another person. The reassignment will typically take 90 days, but it can be faster in high-demand area codes.

100,000 phone numbers are reassigned every day.

Cell phone providers recycle telephone numbers by returning them to their pool of aging numbers for a period of time following disconnection before reassigning them to new subscribers. Approximately 35 million telephone numbers are disconnected and aged each year. Wireless carriers reassign 100,000 numbers every day.

The Telemarketer’s Responsibility

When the owner of the cell phone number changes, so does the permission tied to the number according to the TCPA. Any businesses that call cell phones with an ATDS are affected. This includes nonprofits, political, surveys, collections and telemarketing.  The law provides for $500 in compensation for calls found to be in violation and up to $1,500 for calls that knowingly or willfully violate the TCPA

The FCC’s solution is that businesses get one chance to get it right. The FCC found that “callers who make calls without knowledge of reassignment and with a reasonable basis to believe that they have valid consent to make the call should be able to initiate one call after reassignment as an additional opportunity to gain actual or constructive knowledge of the reassignment and cease future calls to the new subscriber.”

With the new “one-call” rule in place, businesses need to be extremely careful about all interactions with customers—even with those who have given express consent.