Re: Public Notice, Wireline Competition Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on NANC Recommendations on Cost Funding and Fee Structure for Reassigned Numbers Database, CG Docket No. 17-59, Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls (Feb. 26, 2020)
Ms. Marlene H. Dortch
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Ms. Dortch:
The American Bankers Association (ABA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the request by the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau for comment on the North American Numbering Council’s (NANC) “Recommendations on Funding of the Creation Costs and Fee Structure for Users of the Reassigned Numbers Database.” In 2018, the Commission voted to adopt a Second Report and Order that establishes a database of phone numbers that have been permanently disconnected from their current subscriber and are available for reassignment to another consumer (Reassigned Numbers Database, or Database). Pursuant to the Second Report and Order, the NANC issued recommendations for the funding of the Reassigned Numbers Database on February 13, 2020.
ABA shares the Commission’s goal to minimize calls to reassigned numbers. Banks regularly need to contact their customers with important, beneficial, and time-sensitive calls, such as suspicious activity alerts, data breach notifications, notices of address discrepancies, low-balance and over-limit transactions, and payment and delinquency reminders. Banks make significant efforts to promote the accuracy of the numbers they call but, despite these efforts, cannot completely avoid calling reassigned numbers. We support the Commission’s decision to establish a single, comprehensive Reassigned Numbers Database that is available to businesses on a voluntary basis to determine whether a customer’s wireless, wireline, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone number has been permanently disconnected. As the Commission considers a structure to fund the operation of the Database, we offer information and recommendations provided by our members, which if incorporated into the Database’s funding structure, would improve the Database’s functionality and increase the likelihood that banks would utilize this resource.
First, we agree with NANC that charging a “high per-query rate” for each phone number queried against the Database “will suppress” the volume of numbers that callers check against the Database and that, conversely, a “low rate is likely to increase” that volume. We reiterate our request that the Commission minimize the fees charged to callers for use of the Database. As described in ABA’s February 24, 2020, comment letter, our large bank members anticipate needing to query millions of customer phone numbers each month. If the fees charged are not minimized, callers will have a disincentive to use the Database. The Commission should examine how other government agencies and organizations that provide similar phone inventory functions are able to provide those functions while minimizing the fees charged to users. These entities include the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry and the phonetype porting service provided by iconectiv, which tracks phone numbers that are ported from a landline number to a wireless number and vice versa. 9 Ultimately, the Commission should select a price that balances the cost of maintaining the Database with encouraging access.
NANC recommends a “tiered” pricing structure, with at least three tiers, whereby callers that submit queries to the Database will receive “increasing discounts as volumes increase.” NANC further recommends that a caller that queries the Database should be charged, at the beginning of each time period, a flat rate to “cover the volume of queries [submitted] during that time period up to the upper query volume limit.” It is not clear whether a business that does not submit the maximum number of queries allowed by a particular “tier” will receive a refund. We recommend that the Commission track the number of queries that each business submits during the time period and charge businesses only for the queries actually submitted. In addition, it is critical that a business that reaches the maximum number of queries allowed by the tier to which the caller has paid be allowed to submit additional queries, without delay, and be billed for those queries, as NANC suggests. Any interruption of a bank’s access to the Database could result in consumers not receiving important and time-sensitive calls to its customers.
As we recommended above, the Database’s administrator — not individual callers — should track the number of queries each caller submits, as NANC also suggests. Banks may submit queries that originate from multiple business lines at the bank. A requirement that a business track the total number of queries submitted by multiple business lines would impose substantial burden on the business.
In addition, we agree with NANC’s recommendation that consideration should be given to extending the safe harbor provided by the Commission’s Second Report and Order. In the Second Report and Order, the Commission established a safe harbor for a caller that checks against the Database a phone number for which the caller has obtained consent to call, and the Database returns inaccurate information. NANC recommends that “consideration . . . be given to extending the safe harbor to Users whose queries generate a response of ‘no data’ . . . .”
Such a response may be returned if the last disconnect of the phone number queried occurred prior to the creation of the Database. We anticipate that many numbers will fall in this category, particularly in the months immediately after the Database is created. It is critical that banks and other callers not be dissuaded from contacting a customer’s number where the last disconnect of that number occurred prior to the creation of the Database.
We appreciate the Commission’s consideration of the information and recommendations provided in this letter. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission to ensure that callers can access the Database in a cost-effective manner.
Consumer & Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory Compliance and Policy