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Does the FCC One-Call Safe Harbor Apply to SMS Marketing?


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Consumers can opt in to receive marketing communications such as coupons, sales announcements, and information about upcoming events from their favorite companies, politicians, and brands. However, what happens when a consumer no longer wants the phone number assigned to them? Marketing companies are often unaware that a change in phone number ownership has occurred when a consumer chooses to change their number, leading to legal issues when messaging the owner of the new number—who didn’t agree to receive such marketing communications. In this blog post, we address how the TCPA and One-Call Safe Harbor applies to reassigned numbers. 


The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created regulations for The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that went into effect in 1992. The TCPA limits the number of unsolicited phone calls telemarketers can make to private individuals. Over the years, the FCC has updated the rules to include limits on robocalls, recorded messages, and text messages. Specifically with regards to text message marketing, the TCPA requires that organizations obtain written consent to text message consumers.


SMS Marketing and Reassigned Phone Numbers

When a customer no longer wants the phone number assigned to them, the wireless company disconnects that number for anywhere from a few days to a few months. 

Once a wireless provider reassigns a phone number to a new customer and activates that line, marketing communication usually automatically resumes on that number, since there’s no communication between wireless providers and marketing companies. This lack of communication can lead to multiple class-action lawsuits with regards to the TCPA.

Individuals can seek up to $500 per call or text after opting out of communication with a company if communication persists. Individuals can seek up to $1,500 if a company continues calling or texting after they’ve requested the company stop all communication, or if the courts determine a willful violation of a company against the TCPA.


What Is the One-Call Safe Harbor?

In 2015, the FCC added the One-Call Safe Harbor to the TCPA in response to companies contacting consumers with reassigned phone numbers who didn’t consent to marketing calls or text messages. The One-Call Safe Harbor allows companies to call or text message owners of reassigned phone numbers one time without penalty.


One-Call Safe Harbor’s Impact on Text Message Marketing 

The One-Call Safe Harbor helps marketing companies determine when an individual—who initially opted in to receive marketing communications—is no longer the owner of the phone number, because the new owner has a chance to opt out of future communications once they receive a marketing text on the new number. The FCC and TCPA are evolving as technology evolves, and text message marketers should stay up to date on rules and regulations to avoid penalties.


Reassigned Numbers and SMS Marketing: Creative Solutions

Currently, the FCC is looking into more creative and proactive solutions to help companies gain access to the information they need. One solution is a comprehensive database created by the wireless provider(s) listing all reassigned phone numbers.

Allowing marketing companies access to these databases would help them proactively remove reassigned phone numbers from their contact lists, thus, reducing the likelihood that companies will unintentionally contact customers with reassigned phone numbers. Ultimately, it’s in the text message marketer’s best interest to stay informed about FCC regulations.


Let Tatango Help You with TCPA Compliance

Want to ensure your SMS campaigns are TCPA-compliant? Our team of experts can guide you. Contact our sales and support team today. Also find more information on TCPA compliance for text message marketing in this TCPA video playlist on the Tatango YouTube channel.

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