CRTC leads international effort to stop cross-border telemarketing calls

Pesky telemarketers will soon be receiving an unwanted message themselves as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and similar government agencies from 11 countries announced the launch of an international Do Not Call network earlier today.

The CRTC, which together with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) spearheaded the initiative, hopes the move will establish stronger telemarketing laws around the globe, better coordination among countries on enforcing local telemarketing legislations and aid authorities in battling cross-border telemarketing practices.

Cross-border telemarketing involves off-shore firms placing calls to residents in Canada on behalf of Canadian firms or foreign companies.

The international DNC network was launched during the authorities’ inaugural meeting in France on Friday. The countries involved are: Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In a effort to cut down unwanted telemarketing phone calls that have become a nuisance to many Canadians, the CRTC in 2008 implemented a national Do Not Call List that contains the phone numbers of individuals who do want to receive calls from telemarketers. Under the system, businesses that broke telemarketing regulations faced fines up to $1,500 per unwanted call in case of individual violators and $15,000 per unwanted call in the case of corporate violators. But the CRTC’s abilities to enforce the rules were also placed in question.

Businesses that manage to circumvent Canadian laws through cross-border telemarketing have always hindered CRTC`s enforcement efforts, Andrea Rosen, chief compliance and enforcement officer for the government agency, told ITBusiness.ca.

“Cross-border telemarketers have always been an issue,” she said. “Since these companies do not operate on Canadian soil there were always difficulty and enforcing our regulations on them event these companies trouble our residents.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Konrad von Finckenstein, CRTC chairman also acknowledged that unwanted telemarketing calls have grown to become a global problem. “A global problem calls for a global solution. Having a network that fosters collaboration will contribute to more effective cross-border enforcement activities and help reduce unwanted telephone calls to Canadians from foreign telemarketers.”

An end to Mexican robocalls?

If you’re looking for examples of how the new international DNCL initiative might work, Rosen points to a recent agreement reached by the CRTC with two Mexico-based companies found to be responsible for some unauthorized telemarketing calls to Canadians.

She said the CRTC had received thousands of complaints from Canadians about Mexican vacation companies Marketing 4 Sunset Group and Cancun Unlimited. CRTC investigations later revealed that the unauthorized telemarketing calls to Canadians made on behalf of the two were being made using an automated calling device and were being carried out without prior consent of the receivers of the calls.

“These companies were using robocallers and were making the calls without prior consent. Both practices violate Canadian telemarketing laws,” said Rosen.

“Working closely with Mexico’s consumer protection agency, the CRTC was able to get the firms to subscribe to our national DNCL, ensure they update their list regularly, stop using robocallers, comply with CRTC telemarketing rules and not to use names of Canadian corporations falsely,” she said.

Asked about public perception that the CRTC is not capable of enforcing its telemarketing rules, Rosen said marketing research indicates that 80 per cent of Canadians are “pleased” with the results of the DNCL. She added that since its implementation the DNCL has collected as much as $2.5 million in penalties. “Bell Canada paid $1.3 million, GoodLife, paid about $500,000, Xentel DM Inc. $500,000 and Rogers Communications $275,000,” said Rosen.

Canadian business welcome international DNC network

The launch of the international DNC network was made only late last week, but at least two Canadian business and marketing industry associations have expressed support for the move.

“This is a positive thing,” said Wally Hill, vice-president of public affairs for the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), a non-government marketing industry body that has over 800 member companies across the country. Hill hopes the move will put a damper on cross-border telemarketing activities. “Cross-border telemarketers that are flouting the law give law-abiding Canadian companies a bad name,” he said.

He said CMA members abide by the DNCL “although there will always be instances when compliance with other CRTC telemarketing rules might go awry for some companies.”

This may have been the case with Bell Canada which is a CMA member.

Corinne Polhmann, vice-president for national affair at the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), also welcomes the development of an international DNC network.

Polhmann said CFIB’s more than 108,000 members are from the small and medium business sector and are not likely to have the resources to hire offshore telemarketers. However, small businesses also suffer from the consumer backlash against erring businesses, she said.

“This is a very good development. Cross-border telemarketing is a big nuisance for Canadian consumers. International monitoring will make things easier for Canadian companies working within the law,” she said.

Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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  • Canadian soil there were always difficulty and enforcing our regulations on them event these companies trouble our residents.