Are you being held hostage by your 800 service?

don't put your business at the mercy of someone elseThis is a lot more common than most people would realize. It can happen in a variety of ways, and unfortunately most people don’t know where to go or who to turn to when they suddenly realize they’re getting screwed and are really stuck.

It happens when you start advertising a toll free number that you got from a company you never heard of through the internet without reading the fine print. Somewhere buried in their fine print they say that the toll free number they are providing you is a part of their service.

That doesn’t sound bad but when you eventually want to transfer to another provider they say that you can cancel their service but you can’t take their number with you if you want to leave. If you don’t have any independent proof of ownership, they’ve GOTCHA!!

Occasionally we also see companies that got a toll free number from their hosting company or some other service. It sounds like a nice perk, but there’s no free lunch and when you advertise it and put it in print, all of a sudden you’re committing to that number and it may wind up stuck with the service that gave you the toll free number.

Sometimes even really big phone companies do it inadvertently, but just not processing transfer requests properly when you change phone companies. Then you stop paying the old phone company and the toll free number that didn’t get transferred is now disconnected and the bureacracy to get it going again just seems impossible. It’s usually made worse by phone company representatives that don’t understand what you’re trying to do and don’t seem to care. They may not be holding you hostage per say, but you still don’t have your number and if you don’t do anything long enough it’ll get sucked up by Primetel, the black hole.

The only thing worse than being a hostage is being a Hostage Voluntarily!

Some people actually agree to be held hostage on purpose. If you think having a specific number is the key to success, and someone is only willing to “rent” it to you, you are being voluntarily held hostage. This is called shared use. And again the more you advertise someone else’s number the more at their mercy you become. And they may seem nice, but being held hostage in a comfortable chair is still being held hostage.

Toll free numbers are by law, portable. The problem is that the same organization in charge of allowing you to leave has an incentive to keep you there as long as possible. This is like putting the hungry kids in charge of guarding the cookie jar.

We want to help!

If you’re being held hostage give us a call. In some situations we can help. And at a minimum we can get you a number that nobody will ever be able to hold you hostage with. And sometimes it just takes a little communication to resolve situations. Companies do have the right to refuse to release numbers if you owe money. We hate to see anyone get into this situation and really want to help.

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    1 Comment »

    Bill Quimby (666 comments.) says:
    December 8, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Here’s an interesting example. The owner of replied to an old post at and he said:

    No one is held hostage as the service is offered on a month-to-month basis without any term commitments. The numbers provided by EasyTel.Net and they remain our property and are not for sale. In the event a subscriber wishes to port their own number to our service they can take that number with them when they leave our service.

    This is a very interesting paragraph. First of all I think he misunderstand the meaning of Holding someone Hostage by their phone number. The point isn’t that they can’t cancel the service. The point is that after you advertise a number to not be able to transfer it means you’re stuck with that service. Thomas doesn’t think that the rules of portability apply to him.

    He admits that they will allow you to transfer a number away if you transfer it to them (like when you transfer it from us) but if you get it from us. He doesn’t say it but implies that if you don’t transfer it in, you won’t be able to transfer it away. He says the numbers remain their property. If he doesn’t think that’s holding someone hostage he clearly doesn’t understand what holding someone hostage refers to because he says he doesn’t do it at the same time that he explains that they do exactly what I warn people about.

    There’s NO reason to refuse to transfer a number away if they’ve been a customer for a while other than because you want to keep them there and prevent them from being able to use any other service. Thanks Thomas, for giving us such a good example of how you can justify holding someone hostage and at the same time deny that you do it.

    Do you think he wants me to include them as a toll free provider? He says he’s providing a Unified Messaging service, implying he’s not a toll free provider. He doesn’t think the rules of portability apply to them so they aren’t providing toll free service. So should I not include them in the provider section or should I just list them and warn people that the owner admitted that they hold customers hostage if they don’t bring the number over from an outside source!?

    What this really says most of all is why you need to get your number from a separate service and transfer it over. No matter how nice their website looks you don’t want to even take a chance of being held hostage by your number after you advertise it everywhere.


      14 pings

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      December 5, 2008 at 10:25 am

      [...] to your cell phone during the off season you can do anything you want because it’s YOUR number. Nobody can hold you hostage by your toll free number and make you use their service after you have advertised it everywhere, if [...]

        The Price at says:
        December 13, 2008 at 2:49 am

        [...] if they got it for you, except since you had it active before transferring it to them, they can’t hold you hostage or claim they gave you the number as part of their service. Your ability to transfer your number is [...]

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            [...] charge of guarding the cookie jar. It’s well worth just a little effort to not only insure that nobody can hold your business hostage, but to get the best most memorable number for your business. (No Ratings Yet)  Loading [...]

              Toll free portability at says:
              January 4, 2009 at 11:21 pm

              [...] you can cancel their number but you can’t take it with you if you want to leave them. This means you get trapped, or held hostage! That’s also why you want to get your number from someone independent like us rather than just [...]

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                March 17, 2009 at 8:05 am

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                  Onebox Hidden Fees exposed at says:
                  March 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm

                  [...] or more expensive than our up front and only fee of $49. Even worse some companies can also wind up holding you hostage or at least making it hard to leave, because no matter what they say or how friendly they may seem when they’re trying to sell you [...]

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                    March 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm

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                      March 28, 2009 at 4:31 pm

                      [...] Are you being held hostage by your 800 service? (9) [...]

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                        June 3, 2009 at 10:34 am

                        [...] it as long as you keep it with them, then you don’t really own it at all. And you may wind up at their mercy since you often can’t change the number once it’s in all of your advertising! (No [...]

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                          August 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

                          [...] doing a search on their website. No matter how they try to spin it, they use tricky legal jargon to hold customers hostage, if you find the number on their website. Don’t let the fact that they charge something for the [...]

                            Onebox charges unfair fees at says:
                            September 1, 2009 at 10:37 am

                            [...] I wrote several articles about how they used to essentially steal their customers 800 numbers or hold their customers hostage by refusing to allow anyone to transfer any number away. I had to yank several customers numbers [...]

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                                September 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

                                [...] VERY hard to change! I always warn people that the more you advertise someone else’s number, the more at their mercy you become. So anyone renting you a toll free number will be more than happy to let you start advertising it, [...]

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