You’ve heard it said about diamonds – but did you know that toll free numbers are “forever”? That is to say, you can keep a good, dependable toll free number for life.
When you secure a toll free number through a service provider, you have certain protections afforded to you by the FCC that help you keep that number in the event 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 customers can change carriers / service providers without changing their toll free number. The portability of numbers serves two purposes. First, it breaks the grip companies like AT&T had on 800 numbers in the decades prior and encourages greater competition. This inspires service providers to 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 changing a toll free number’s “Responsible Organization”, or RespOrg. When you’re ready to transfer a number to a new service provider, simply 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 form 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 to 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 to some kind of rare, 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.
Safeguarding 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 into 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 give even an honest 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 with them prematurely. Wait until the transfer is complete, or you run the risk of having your transfer request rejected.