AP reports that PrimeTel Communications has, for the last 13 years, been buying up every desirable 800 number on the market. They behave not unlike domain name prospectors who do the same with web addresses, only they convert many of these numbers into phone sex lines.
The company now controls 1.7 million toll-free numbers, which represent about 25% of all 800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada. Among them: 1-800-Metallica, 1-800-Cadillac, 1-800-Minolta, 1-800-Cameras, 1-800-Worship and 1-800-Whirlpool.
AP reports that the connection between the speculation activity and the phone-porn activity is this: A-1 Advertising, an actual phone sex business, shares a building, owners, and executives, with the company doing the 800 number buying. More:
Critics of the company say it isn't the sex that bothers them, but the acquisition of so many numbers. Bill Quimby, whose company, TollFreeNumbers.com, specializes in helping businesses obtain easy-to-remember digits to connect with customers, said it can be a challenge to find a good match because PrimeTel has gobbled up such an outsized share of the supply.Read the rest
"They started by getting numbers for phone sex, then getting good numbers in general, then they started taking all phone numbers," he said.
A spokesman for the FCC, David Fiske, would not comment on whether the agency had ever examined PrimeTel's activities but said the commission is actively enforcing rules on number hoarding. PrimeTel appears to have benefited by grabbing numbers associated with famous names, like 1-800-Beatles, or numbers that have recently been canceled but are still advertised widely.