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FCC Addresses Toll Free Texting Safeguards
Businesses are using texting with increased frequency to communicate with their customers. Texting is the communications channel of choice for many individuals. And SMS is an affordable and easy way for organizations to provide their customers information and updates.
But the use of toll-free numbers for texting also has its challenges. Somos Inc. says it can open the door to problems like number spoofing and lead to fraud. So the Toll Free Numbering Administrator petitioned the FCC (News - Alert) for a Declaratory Ruling discussing safeguards against that kind of thing.
That petition was presented 2016. And just last month the Federal Communications Commission made such a ruling. At the same time, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to ensure the integrity of toll-free texting. The commission also asked for input on what else it might consider doing to protect the integrity of the toll-free numbering system.
This new Declaratory Ruling seeks to clarify commission rules that “prohibit a toll free text messaging provider (messaging provider) from text-enabling a toll free number without obtaining authorization from the subscriber for that number….”
The NPRM proposes requiring messaging providers to obtain a subscriber’s authorization through the subscriber’s designated Responsible Organization. A RespOrg is a company a subscriber chooses to manage the assignment and routing responsibility for a toll-free number.
In its May 17 Declaratory Ruling/NPRM document, the FCC explained “The lack of safeguards and controls in the current text-enabling process can harm both the toll free subscriber and any consumer that calls or texts the toll free number. For example, Ad Hoc Telecommunications Users Committee explains that, ‘[a]n individual or company could, for example, text-enable the toll free customer service number on the back of a credit card and ask consumers to text via that number sensitive personal and/or financial information associated with their card account.’”
The FCC continued, writing “Signal One and West Telecom have also claimed incidents in which toll free numbers they administer have been text-enabled without their knowledge, or that of the subscribers, which raises significant questions about the proper routing and delivery of the text messages, among other concerns. And numerous RespOrgs filed a joint letter with the Commission claiming that toll free numbers ‘can be hijacked if the RespOrg is not part of the text-enabling process.’ The record also reflects a concern that unassigned toll free numbers could be text-enabled, which renders the toll free number useless for voice service.”
Edited by Maurice Nagle