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Toll-Free Numbers: What They Are, How They Work & More

Posted by Allison Boccamazzo on August 24, 2016 at 8:47 AM

Toll-Free numbers have been around for almost 40 years and are still going strong as one of today’s most recognized forms of marketing and communication. So, where do these numbers come from and how do they work? If you’re looking to invest in a Toll-Free number for your business, here’s what you may want to know:


What is a Toll-Free Number?

A Toll-Free number is a phone numbers that begins with any of the following three-digit codes: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855 or 844. The benefit of a Toll-Free number is that they allow customers to reach businesses (or individuals, if a number has been purchased for personal purposes) without being charged for the call. Many Toll-Free numbers are used by telemarketing companies or leveraged for customer service departments or contact centers.

How Do They Work?

As we mentioned, Toll-Free numbers allow customers to contact businesses without being charged for the call. This is made possible by the Toll-Free subscriber, who pays for the call instead of the caller him or herself. Toll-Free numbers are assigned first come, first served by organizations known as RespOrgs, or Responsible Organizations.  A RespOrg doesn’t necessarily have to be a telephone company, but what all RespOrgs have in common is that they have access to the Somos (formerly known as the SMS/800) database, which contains information regarding the status of all Toll-Free numbers nationwide. RespOrgs must complete extensive training and testing in order to be certified by the database administrator.

Are There Any Charges Associated with Them?

There are no charges associated with making a Toll-Free call; however, there can be costs associated with specific Toll-Free processes. For example, number porting—a process involving reassigning a customer’s fixed or mobile number to a new provider—can have certain one-time fees and monthly costs. Click here for an overview of those costs and what they may mean for your business.

What Locations Do They Cover?

This is something you’ll have to discuss with your VoIP service provider . Your Toll-Free service provider provides you services from an underlying carrier—either a Tier 1, a Tier 2, or a Tier 3 carrier. Each of these carriers is known for servicing a specific geographic region (i.e. a rural area, a metropolitan area, etc.). Consult your provider to ensure your expectations will be met.

Interested in learning more? Click here for an overview of Toll-Free by the FCC.

 • What is a RespOrg and Can I Become One? 

 • 10 Questions to Ask When Searching for a Toll-Free Number Service

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Tags: Telephony, Telecom

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