Backgrounder

 

Legislation to Facilitate the Creation of a National Do Not Call List

 

Unsolicited telemarketing has become a serious irritant for many Canadians. In a survey by Environics in 2003, 97 percent of respondents reported a negative reaction toward unsolicited calls — 38 percent said they tolerate the calls, 35 percent reported being annoyed by them, and 24 percent said they hated receiving them. The majority of respondents (79 percent) supported the creation of a national Do Not Call List, and 66 percent indicated they would likely add their number to the list.

 

The amendments being proposed to the Telecommunications Act strengthen the role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) under the Act with respect to “the regulation of telecommunications facilities for unsolicited telecommunications to prevent undue inconvenience or nuisance.” In 1994, the CRTC imposed limitations on telemarketing, including a requirement that telemarketers maintain individual Do Not Call lists. Many consumers consider this practice unsatisfactory, as it requires them to enlist with each telemarketer separately and potentially add their phone number to hundreds of lists.

 

This year, in Telecom Decision CRTC 2004-35, Review of Telemarketing Rules, the CRTC concluded that a national Do Not Call List has considerable merit. However, the commission found it could not establish a list without changes to legislation that would enable it to impose fines for non-compliance, establish a third-party administrator to operate a database, and set fees to recover costs associated with maintaining the list. In its decision, the CRTC recommended that the government make it possible to adopt the more effective approach of a Do Not Call List through legislation. In the interim, it established new rules to reinforce the existing regime.

 

The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), the Canadian Bankers Association and telemarketing firms representing charities appealed the decision on new rules, and the CMA also requested that the government amend legislation to provide for a national list. In response, the CRTC stayed its interim rules on September 28, 2004. The decision by the government to amend the Telecommunications Act to facilitate the establishment of a national Do Not Call List resolves the issue.

 

Once the legislation is in place, it is expected that the CRTC will undertake consultations to find an administrator, to determine how the list will operate and how much it will cost, and to consider whether any types of calls should be exempt from the Do Not Call List. The implementation of the list by the CRTC will follow these deliberations in due course.

 

Environics Survey Results on Telemarketing

(Survey December 2003/Results January 2004)

 

Highlights

               81 percent of Canadians surveyed reported they have received an unsolicited call;

               79 percent of respondents would support a national Do Not Call List;

               66 percent would be likely to sign up for this service;

               Among those who would likely sign up for the Do Not Call List, 66 percent would not want to receive calls from charities calling to raise money;

               56 percent of respondents feel that telemarketers should pay for the operations and maintenance of the national Do Not Call List;

               23 percent believe it should be funded by consumers who sign up;

               8 percent think it should be the federal government’s or telephone companies’ responsibility.

 

On average, respondents received 3.43 unsolicited phone calls in a typical week. The following subgroups appear to receive more calls:

               residents of Ontario (4.54);

               Canadians with household incomes of $80,000 or more (4.99); and

               Anglophones (4.08), as compared to Francophones (1.71).

 

Those who received at least one unsolicited call per week are more likely to report receiving calls from charities (44 percent) than from firms they have (24 percent) or have not (27 percent) done business with in the past.

 

A majority of respondents report they have a negative reaction toward unsolicited call, as:

               38 percent indicate they tolerate these calls;

               35 percent reveal the calls are annoying; and

               24 percent report they hate receiving them.

 

With regard to complaints, 14 percent of respondents reported they have tried to make a complaint regarding an unsolicited call. Among this sub-group, 39 percent indicated their complaint was resolved and 59 percent indicated it was not.

 

This survey of 2002 Canadians 18 years of age and over was carried out by telephone December 11-29, 2003. Results to a survey of this size can be considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percent, 19 times out of 20.