VIDEO: Safeguarding the Integrity of Toll-Free Numbers
At the heart of Toll-Free communication is a fundamental value: integrity.
Toll-Free Numbers have been a primary link between consumers and businesses for nearly 50 years. The promise of Toll-Free communication is clear: when I call a Toll-Free Number, my order gets taken, my questions get answered, my problems get solved, my plea for help gets heard.
Today, more than 40 million Toll-Free Numbers are used by organizations to provide an immediately recognizable way for consumers to connect with them, route thousands of calls across sales centers and help desks around the world and track major marketing campaigns. Simply put, Toll-Free means business.
Technically speaking, what enables all this coordination is a registry database – a single, accurate and active record of what numbers belong to what subscribers, along with the top line routing data.
At Somos, our SMS/800 Toll-Free Number (TFN) Registry is an trusted, neutral registry for number reservation and routing information for Toll-Free Numbers, managed by more than 420 Toll-Free Service Providers, also known as Responsible Organizations (Resp Orgs).
In recent years, demand has surged for Toll-Free Numbers to become a more diverse communication service, allowing text messaging, multimedia sharing, and potentially other innovative uses. Today, that is happening with the text enablement of Toll-Free Numbers with organizations eager to green light texting, and the messaging ecosystem developing the best way to support this.
Watch Gina Perini, President and CEO, talk through the importance of this evolution.
As new uses for Toll-Free Numbers evolve, it is absolutely critical that we uphold the integrity of each number across all media. This means that the registry procedures that protect consumer and business trust in the voice communication ecosystem must be reflected in the messaging ecosystem.
These two ecosystems operate in different worlds – voice in the federally regulated world of the FCC and texting in the industry-driven world of mobile communications. And because of that, CTIA (the industry association of mobile operators) has established guidelines to prevent Toll-Free Numbers from being text enabled without the subscriber’s knowledge, protecting against consumer and business fraud.
The CTIA guidelines state the following:
Resp Orgs should be notified when someone wants to text enable a Toll-Free Number of the Resp Org’s subscriber
Only working voice Toll-Free Numbers should be text enabled
Somos will add capabilities to its Toll-Free registry to enable the above
In conjunction with CTIA and the wireless industry, Somos developed and deployed the Texting & Smart Services (TSS) Registry, pursuant to CTIA guidelines.
Here’s why this matters: All of the services associated with a single phone number must be coordinated to avoid a scenario where one company has a voice capability on a specific Toll-Free Number, and another company has the text capability.
What would happen if a company’s main competitor could appropriate and then text enable its Toll-Free Number without its consent? And what about Toll-Free Numbers that are shared by multiple users based on their geographic location? What if the subscriber in Boston started getting text messages intended for the subscriber in San Francisco? Integrity – and customer relationships – would suffer.
As the industry prepares to text enable millions of Toll-Free Numbers, we must ensure fairness and full transparency in the marketplace through accurate routing information, and respect for the Toll-Free ecosystem. Lack of validation and controls invites opportunities for fraud and identity theft.
Toll-Free is a trusted connection between consumers and businesses. It also a marketing and operational tool for getting things done. We must ensure this integrity remains ever-present as Toll-Free grows and develops over new communications channels.
Gina M. Perini
Chair of the Board of Directors & Chief Executive Officer