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Text Message Marketing and New FCC Rules

Two moves by the FCC may change how you do business. On December 12, 2018, the FCC approved two measures. One classifies text messages as information services under the Communications Act. This move will give more authority to carriers to block text messages. The agency determined that MMS and SMS are not commercial mobile services and said its latest ruling would give carriers more power to protect American consumers from robo-texting and spam.

Reassigned Numbers Database

Businesses face the risk of violating TCPA by calling reassigned numbers after receiving express consent from the original holder of the number. Soon, the FCC will have a  comprehensive’ database of reassigned numbers administered by a third-party that must be checked before marketing calls are made. Though there is not yet a publish data, work will begin on the database as soon as an administrator is selected – estimated sometime within the next 12 months.

“[w]ith this decision, the FCC empowers wireless providers to continue taking action to protect American consumers from unwanted text messages.” – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

New Rules and Procedures for Callers

For the new database, providers will report the date of permanent disconnection for phone numbers by the 15th of each month. Disconnections caused by customer non-payment will not be included in the database, and the database will not be retroactive, so only new disconnects will be added. There will be a 45-day waiting period before a disconnected number can be reassigned.

Providers that have 100,000 subscribers or less will have a grace period of six months before they are required to begin reporting disconnected numbers. The database will not provide carrier details or subscriber information.

Once the database is in place, callers will query the database with a phone number and a date, and receive a response of either “No,” “Yes,” or “No Data” to indicate whether a phone number has been disconnected since the date entered. Safe harbor will apply to good-faith callers who queried and trusted the database response of “No” when making calls.

As with the Do Not Call Registry, callers will have to pay for the use of the database and must certify in writing that the database is being used only for lawful calls. The FCC said it was considering merging the two databases for increased efficiency.