When you secure a toll free number through aÂ service provider, you have certain protections afforded to you by the FCC thatÂ helpÂ you keepÂ thatÂ number in the eventÂ you change service providers, or even change businesses. Today we’ll cover that protection, some pitfalls to watch out for, and how to go about changing providers should the need arise.
Your Protection, A Brief History
Set the WABAC Machine to May 1st, 1993. This is the cutoff date set in 1991 by the FCC for 800 numbers (the only toll free number prefix at the time) to be made “portable,” such that customersÂ can changeÂ carriers / service providersÂ without changing their toll free number. The portability of numbers serves two purposes. First, it breaks theÂ grip companies like AT&T had on 800 numbers in the decades prior and encourages greater competition. ThisÂ inspires service providers toÂ provide only the best service to earn their customers’ loyalty. Second, toll free number portability protects the investment a business makes in promoting and advertising their number as part of their brand.
Transfers take place by changingÂ a toll free number’s “Responsible Organization”, or RespOrg. When you’re ready to transfer a number to a new service provider, simplyÂ contact that new provider and they’ll provide you with a form that you can fill out to start the transfer process. It’s usually a good idea to contact your old service provider to double-check your account information when filling out the formÂ and make sure your account is in good standing, so that there’s nothing to stop your transfer from going through. You don’t need to mention that you’re transferring the number away. In fact, I recommend not. Less reputable toll free number service providers have been known to go out of their way toÂ impede transfers if they have advanced warning.
Why to Avoid “Shared Use”
One of the more notorious pitfalls that can cause you to lose the time and effort you’ve spent promoting your toll free number is unwittingly using a “shared use” number.
Time and again, we at FreedomVoice hear horror stories from businesses that turn to us after being put through the ringer by “shared use” toll free number service providers. A shared use line is exactly what you might think – there are multiple businesses dividing up (often geographically) a single toll free number. The purpose is typically to get access toÂ some kind ofÂ rare,Â attractive vanity toll free number spelling. The problem is, when the time comes for you to change service providers or to grow to a nationwide reach, you don’t own the toll free number and can’t take it with you. Everything you’ve built with that number is now lost, and you have to start all over again.
Our advice? Stay away from shared use. Find a toll free number you love for your business, and own it.
SafeguardingÂ Your Toll Free Number
It’s always important to read the fine print when signing on with a new service provider / carrier to make sure you’re not getting intoÂ a toll free number black hole. If there’s any doubt about whether you’ll keep your number should you choose to leave, don’t be afraid to ask. And watch out for extensive “transfer away” fees. Some providers charge prohibitive costs as penalties to move a number away from their service.
While your rights to keep your number are in most cases secure, certain actions on your part might giveÂ even an honestÂ toll free number service provider leverage to deny your transfer request. For example, if you have a sizeable unpaid balance, transferring your number away isn’t a means of dodging your bill. A service provider can, and likely will, refuse your transfer if your account is not in “good standing” at the time of the transfer.
Also, should you choose to transfer your number away from a service provider, don’t cancel your service withÂ them prematurely. Wait until the transfer is complete, or you run the risk of having your transfer request rejected.