ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Tuesday March 24 1998 at 10:14:1 AM EST


Congressional leaders tell the FCC, "Vanity numbers are extraordinarily valuable marketing tools for large and small businesses alike...", "Large carriers are RespOrgs, SNAC members, and subscribers... There exists a fundamental conflict of interest in the roles [they] have in the toll free industry."

Washington , D.C. U.S. - (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) Prompted by local centers with concerns for call centers and 800 users nationwide, Maine's Congressional representatives: Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins, and Representatives John E. Baldacci and Tom Allen, have each written to the Commissioner William E. Kennard, calling for greater FCC consideration of toll free user rights -- and better toll free resource management -- in advance of the introduction of 877.

Referring to Steve White, President of The New England 800 Company, a Maine call center, Senator Snowe writes, "The New England 800 Company is concerned primarily about the consumer confusion, misdials, and erosion of trademarks that could result from opening up additional toll-free service access codes... this is a matter of urgent importance not only to the New England 800 Company, but to many other call center companies nationwide."

Senator Collins brings Mr. Kennard's attention to issues raised by the Small Business Administration in its ex parte to the FCC, which also asked for delay in 877 roll-out. "My principal concern with the proposed rollout," she writes, "is that a business that has invested heavily to develop a highly recognizable toll free number under the 800 and 888 service access codes may be materially harmed if the same number is assigned to another subscriber under the 877 service access code."

Fundamental Conflict of Interest

"The SBA has also raised a number of potential problems with the Commission's order dealing with the brokering and hoarding of toll free numbers... Finally, allowing the system to be administered by the toll free carriers does seem, in its face, to hold the potential for a conflict of interest, as the SBA contents," says Senator Collins.

Representative Baldacci also expressed concerns about this issue. "There exists a fundamental conflict of interest in the roles that large carriers have in the toll free industry," he says. "Large carriers are RespOrgs, SNAC members, and subscribers. Certainly, large carriers have an inordinate amount of control over the policy for 8XX subscribers and access to those numbers."

The Value of Vanity Numbers

He goes on, "The 'vanity' number and replication issues have not yet been resolved. There exists no clear definition for 'vanity' numbers. Vanity numbers are extraordinarily valuable marketing tools for large and small businesses alike. Before further complicating the issue with the 877 SAC, this issue must be resolved."

Specifically, Representative Baldacci points out, "there is a need to examine how to have a more level playing field for small entities. I urge the FCC to consider a delay of 30 to 60 days to look into these matters."

Representative Tom Allen also expressed concerns that the commercial value of existing 800 numbers would be jeopardized, and that small businesses would have limited access to new toll free numbers.

Brief but eloquent, Mr. Allen recommends that the FCC "... preserve the utility of an 800 number as a marketing tool."

Doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it.

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News

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