Marketers cheer Do Not Call List

The Canadian marketing industry is championing a CRTC cause that will severely cut back on the number of people receiving phone calls at the dinner hour.

The Do Not Call List took a significant step towards reality this week, with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) saying that it’s ready to issue an RFP. The request for proposals is looking for a service provider that could create and manage a Canadian Do Not Call List (DNCL) on an ongoing basis.

“We’re pleased to see the announcement. It’s certainly a step in the right direction. We’ve supported a national do not call list for many years,” said Ed Cartwright, senior director of communications for the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA). “It actually allows marketers to have cleaner lists.

The list would allow Canadians to sign up at no charge to be exempt from telemarketing calls. A similar service became available in the U.S. four years ago and roughly half of Americans with a phone signed up for it. Anticipation is high that the service will be received as warmly by Canadian households. According to the CRTC, there are an estimated 20 million land lines and 17 million wireless phones here.”

The CMA maintains its own do not call list for its members and was one of about 30 groups that contributed comments on the subject during the CRTC’s public discussions conducted last year.

Other groups that participated include incumbent telecommunications providers and the Privacy Interest and Advocacy Centre.

“Everyone agreed that there needs to be rules surrounding the list,” said Nancy Webster Cole, the CRTC’s senior manager telemarketing regulations.

There will be, for example, various exceptions to the list. Registered charities, newspapers with a national circulation, political parties, pollsters and business to business marketers will still be able to operate as normal.

The CRTC took a number of years to weigh the creation of a DNCL since it was approved by Parliament in 2005, but it was time well spent, said Cartwright, adding that the rules set out by the CRTC are appropriate.

One element that escaped discussion was the number of potential layoffs that could result from the list, said Webster. However, Elizabeth Winter, the founder of the Contact Professionals Alliance, based in Toronto, said her industry will largely be unaffected.

“The majority of the call centre business in Canada is in-bound calling, so in that case it’s not going to have any effect at all,” she said. Examples of in-bound call centres include help desk services, catalogue companies and government call centres.

Winter said that the majority of outbound call centres in Canadian serve the U.S. market, and as such already abide by U.S. Do Not Call laws.

The biggest change, she said, could come from list management: marketers will have to make sure that their customer lists are commensurate with the national DNCL. Companies that fail to abide by the list could face penalties.

“There’ll be a lot more sophistication necessary,” said Winter.

The CRTC’s RFP will be issued this month, but it could take several months before a vendor is chosen. After that, it could be another year before the list is actually in effect.

Canadians may receive fewer unwanted phone calls by next year, but e-mail marketing, a far bigger nuisance in many people’s eyes, still lacks adequate legislation.

There’s no end in sight to that problem, said Cartwright. “Given the nature of the Internet, with no clear boundaries, it’s a tough one.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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