The distribution of toll phone free numbers is highly regulated to ensure that anyone who wants a 1-800 number can get one in a fair and economical way through a legitimate service provider like Tollfreenumber.ORG. Hoarding batches of the toll free phone numbers is illegal.
Under rules established in 1997 by the Federal Communications Commission, available numbers must be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Available numbers are stored on a database maintained by the 800 Service Management System (SMS/800).
A subscriber may not acquire more toll free numbers than they intend to use. By FCC definition, “hoarding” also includes “brokering” –the illegal lease or sale of toll free numbers for a fee.
The FCC began investigating hoarding of 800 numbers as far back as 1995, but despite the subsequent release of 888, 877, and 866 pre-fixes, the practice continues to grow. The FCC has the 855 pre-fix numbers reserved to alleviate the shortage but has not yet announced plans to release those numbers.
Concern about the diminishing stock of 800 numbers is creating an even higher demand for toll free service, a marketing tool that the FCC says is “proven” to increase business. Studies show that telephone orders can increase up to 60% and word of mouth referrals can rise by 200% if a toll free number is advertised.
If the FCC discovers illegal hoarding, they immediately send out suspension letters to the owner of the numbers. Additionally, the brokering of toll free numbers can result in hefty fines.