The Federal Communications Commission’s Reassigned Numbers Database is set to commence on April 15th, 2021. On that date service providers must submit monthly reports detailing all disconnected and reassigned numbers. The April 15th compliance date marks the beginning of the FCC’s effort to build a robust database that will prevent inadvertent calls to reassigned numbers; however, the FCC intends to announce and unveil the program at a later undetermined date.
The program requires service providers to submit reports of all disconnected and reassigned numbers on the 15th day of each month following the program’s initiation. Submissions are to be submitted to the Reassigned Numbers Database Administrator in a specific technical format detailed in the FCC’s January 15, 2021 Public Notice.
Providers will also be required to submit a supplemental disclosure of what the FCC terms as “initial seed data.” The seed data must contain a list of all previously disconnected numbers between July 27th, 2020, and April 15th, 2021. The initial report requirements only apply to service providers with over 100,000 domestic retail subscriber lines. Providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers are given a six-month grace period until October 15, 2021. Smaller providers must submit initial seed data of disconnected numbers spanning from January 27th, 2021, up to October 25th, 2021.
Once operational, the new database will provide a useful tool for telemarketers and other callers in avoiding calls to reassigned numbers. This is important for compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act because generally callers only have consent to places calls to intended recipients—not the person with the reassigned number. The restriction under the TCPA remains effective, but once the new database is operational, callers may scrub against the list to take advantage of a safe harbor from TCPA violations. The safe harbor will apply if a caller inadvertently calls a reassigned number held by a non-consenting consumer. Callers will have a safe harbor from liability so long as they rely in good faith on an error or omission in the database. For the safe harbor rule to apply, the caller must rely on its service provider’s most recent list.
Michele is the Managing Partner at M&S and former Chief of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. Bringing more than two decades of experience in the consumer protection arena, she advises highly regulated businesses on a wide range of telemarketing, privacy, and other consumer protection matters.