The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) made it illegal to use an autodialer to call an emergency line (as well as cell phones). No known compliance tool or method existed to identify such lines, other than trial and error. Telephone sampling companies discovered them the hard way and made sure to scrub such numbers from every list they created or were given.

DNC Registry for Emergency Lines

“The Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act”[1] tasked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch a registry of emergency lines (“public safety answering points” or PSAPs) to reduce/eliminate unintended calls to them by operators of automatic telephone dialing systems (autodialers).

The Insights Association publicly supported the launch of this registry, to improve the efficiency of marketing research and compliance. No one in the research profession wants to call an emergency line for a research study – it wastes time and money. Researchers that accidentally do so could face fines and visits from the police.

The FCC strictly interpreted the law so that only operators of autodialers are allowed to use the registry. Unfortunately, almost all telephone research samples (calling lists) are provided by or at least scrubbed by telephone sampling companies.

Telephone sampling companies are an important link in the research chain

These handful of companies manage compliance for almost all telephone research, scrubbing lists so that researchers do not accidentally call cell phones, known emergency lines, and numbers on a companies’ internal do not call lists. Not only are many telephone data collectors (the “operators” of the autodialers) small businesses without the capacity to scrub their own samples effectively, even the largest research companies usually rely upon telephone sampling companies for their expertise and efficiency.

Absent a solution from the FCC, telephone data collectors will have to access the registry themselves, which would lead to errors, inefficiency, and significantly higher costs, since many lack the existing capacity and knowledge to scrub their own calling lists.

The FCC should follow the spirit of the law by clarifying that sampling companies can access the registry on behalf of their marketing researcher clients, achieving the greatest degree and breadth of compliance with one simple measure.

[1] H.R. 2629, sponsored by Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA); incorporated into Section 6507 of the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012" (P.L. 112-96) (47 CFR Parts 1 and 64 / CG Docket No. 12–129; FCC 12–129).