The new National Do Not Call (NDNC) List is set to go live by September 30.
It’s a time for Canadians tormented by telemarketing calls to rejoice, and businesses/individuals who make such calls to be very wary.
Most importantly, an expert says, it’s a time for everyone – consumers and businesses – to educate themselves about the Do Not Call legislation: its provisions, exemptions, penalties…in fact how the whole shebang is going to work.
Kimberley Reynolds, product manager, Bell Canada kick-started this educational process during a well-attended seminar at the recently concluded IT360 conference in Toronto.
Reynolds’ presentation was titled Do Not Call – A New Reality for Canadian Business.
It was an apt title.
For while providing the skinny on the National DNCL, Reynolds also discussed ways Canadian businesses can prepare for the impending legislation.
“It’s vital they do it properly,” she said.
For if done poorly, it could restrict their operations, or have a negative impact on their revenues and reputation.
The National DNC List was established by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in response to a mandate from Parliament.
“Formally this is brand new for Canada,” Reynolds noted. “Informally rules about unsolicited telemarketing have been in place for a number of years. Now there are administrative and monetary penalties for those that do not comply.”
For the first time, she said, power is being given to consumers to influence the behaviour of telemarketers.
The high cost of non-compliance
And monetary penalties for those (individual telemarketers and businesses) that don’t respect a consumer’s wish not to be contacted are pretty stiff.
“The penalty is up to $15,000 per offending call for businesses and $1,500 per offending call for individuals,” Reynolds said.
(Individuals who market products and services over the phone – including those who are part of a multi-channel marketing program –are also covered by the legislation.).
Ring, ring – why do you call me at all
The list is telephone-number driven, Reynolds said, “so if you do not want to get telemarketing calls, just put your phone number on the list.”
Consumers can put their wireline, wireless and fax numbers on the NDNC list. Registration is absolutely free for consumers, and lasts for three years.
After than the onus is on the consumer to put his or her number back on the list, she said. “You’ll be advised of the expiry date at the time of registration, so you’ll know when you have to do something.”
But be forewarned. The list will not entirely eliminate all unsolicited calls – at least to begin with – as the legislation includes exemptions.
Currently, certain types of calls are still allowed within the NDNC framework. These include calls made on behalf of:
- Political parties and candidates
- Registered charities (there are 80,000 of these in Canada today)
- Surveys and pollsters – as these aren’t deemed telemarketing but information gathering (the CRTC defines telemarketing as selling using the telephone)
- General circulation newspapers
- Companies with whom you have an existing business relationshipReynolds emphasized that the exemption list doesn’t relate to organizations that are still allowed to call, but specifically the types of call that can be made.And it certainly doesn’t offer those it applies to a carte-blanche.Every consumer has the right to request an individual businesses (even one covered by the exemption list) not to call them, the Bell executive noted.
That business, she said, is then mandated to put the consumer’s number on their internal do not call list. “If they violate this request, they will be subject to the same penalties.”
Likewise, offshore companies calling Canadians are not off the hook.
The legislation is based on where the call is coming to (i.e. Canada) and not where it’s coming from, Reynolds noted.
“So the expectation is any business that does unsolicited telemarketing into Canada, would comply, that they would subscribe to the NDNC list and register with the complaints delegate.”
Typically, however, the legislation wouldn’t apply to lead gen calls – as these would be made to people who have already indicated their willingness to be called, Reynolds said.
But, she said, businesses doing lead gen should take certain precautions. “The wording on the lead cards you get people to sign should give you their express consent to call them.”
No policing – a complaints-driven process
As there’s no policing being done at a national level, the effectiveness of the ‘Do Not Call’ initiative is in the hands of consumers, Reynolds said.
“It’s complaints driven compliance.”
She said from September 30 – the day the framework is in place –individuals and businesses have 31 days to comply.
When a consumer specifically requests not to be called – a company (even one covered by the exemption list) has 31 days to respect that request.
Within that time, she said, the company should ensure that person is taken off all their calling lists. “If (say) 40 days has elapsed since the request was made and the company does call again, you’re allowed to submit a complaint.”
The consumer too has to record certain information so the complaint can be properly investigated.
This includes the date and time of the “offending” call, and (because there is a responsibility from business to identify themselves) the name and number of the calling party.
Filing a compliant
Typically, the expectation is a consumer would file a complaint within 14 days of the offending call.
Complaints, said Reynolds, can be filed via the Internet or the telephone via the national Do Not Call operator who will do a preliminary investigation.
“Then all information – even seemingly invalid ones – will get forwarded to the complaints investigator delegate. (The act of hiring that delegate is in progress right now).
That delegate, she said, will determine relevant facts about the complaint.
“Then there is a recommendation of actions. The due diligence defence can influence the recommendation.”
She said in cases where there are penalties imposed, the CRTC would enforce them.
Telemarketers as well as their sub-contractors could both be held liable. “Everybody responsible for making that call happen is under investigation here.”
The CRTC may also publish information about violations. “From a brand perspective this could be a big hit.”
But a business that’s found to have committed violations can defend itself, she said. “There are processes in place to do that, and it starts with the CRTC.”