The U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) launched the reassigned numbers database (RND) in November 2021. The purpose of the database is to reduce the number of spam calls that a consumer receives that were intended for a prior holder of a phone number.
Introduction to the reassigned number database
Assume you just got a new iPhone and a new phone number from Verizon. You excitedly unbox the phone and follow the instructions to set the phone up and activate your new phone number.
And then… you start receiving unwanted phone calls. Calls from debt collectors and spammers. The debt collectors are the worst – they insist that you set up a payment plan for the debt you allegedly owe.
They don’t listen when you tell them that they have the wrong person.
How did this happen?
How reassigned numbers lead to unwanted calls
It used to happen all the time. When a person gets a phone number (either as their home phone or a cell phone), the carrier they choose to obtain service from grabs a local phone number in the area the person lives. Often, these numbers are taken from a pool of available phone numbers that included phone numbers that were previously in use by someone else.
When someone has issues with debt collectors, one way they try to shake the debt collectors off is to cancel their phone service. In the past, those canceled numbers would go directly back into the pool of available phone numbers.
If you were the unlucky stiff who got one of these bad numbers, you might have been bombarded with calls intended for the prior owner of the phone number.
The FCC recognized this was a bad deal and put the reassigned numbers database (RND) in place to combat it.
What is the reassigned number database?
The reassigned numbers database is exactly what it sounds like – a database of all U.S. local phone numbers that have been reassigned.
All large phone providers are required to update the reassigned numbers database each month.
Call centers, debt collectors and others that call consumers can check the reassigned numbers database before dialing a number. If the number is recently reassigned, the call center should not call it (if, that is, they were trying to get in touch with the prior owner of the phone number).
In this way, the reassigned numbers database can be used to significantly cut down on the number of unwanted calls a person may get. It does not stop spam or robocallers, but it does cut down on calls where the calling party thinks they are calling the prior owner of a phone number.
This video tutorial of the reassigned numbers database gives you all the gory details of how the database works and who should use it.
Benefits of using the reassigned number database
Why should callers use the reassigned number database? It may reduce your liability for TCPA violations.
In particular, by querying the reassigned number database before placing an outbound call, you may be eligible for a “safe harbor” from liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Here's the principal behind the safe harbor.
Let's assume you (as the caller) have some form of consent to call a consumer (let's call him “Paul”) on a specific phone number. But, that phone number has been reassigned to a new consumer (let's call her “Mary”). Mary has not given you consent to call her.
Before you call the phone number, you checked the RND to see if the number has been reassigned. Unfortunately, even though you acted as a good business and checked the most recent version of the RND, the RND did not catch the reassignment to Mary.
Since the RND was in error, even though you called Mary without her consent, you fall in the safe harbor and are not liable under the TCPA for having called Mary (the new owner of that phone number).
This safe harbor can be powerful. It makes sense for call centers to take advantage of the reassigned number database.
For more information, please visit the official reassigned number database website at www.reassigned.us