The Federal Communications Commission announced on March 6 that it would vote at a March 22 meeting on a proposal to create a database of phone numbers that have been reassigned. Reassigned phone numbers are those numbers initially belonging to an individual that are given up or relinquished (usually through account inactivation) and are then assigned by the carrier to another individual.

Currently, a company placing outbound calls and/or text messages is in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act if it calls a number at which an individual had previously provided prior express consent to receive the call but which has since been reassigned to another consumer. The company placing the call is liable even if it is unaware of this reassignment.

While the FCC has created a one-call exception – that is, a calling party is not liable for the first call that reaches a reassigned number – the potential risk to calling parties has proven to be difficult to manage given the challenges of identifying numbers that have been reassigned. A database of reassigned numbers would allow calling parties to filter or “scrub” numbers to detect those that have been reassigned.

The FCC seeks comment on how such a database should be created and used. In its proposal, the FCC expressed some support for the creation of a single source of record for reassigned numbers, noting that a single database would be “more efficient and cost-effective.”