Nobody likes telemarketers.

Those unwanted calls seem to have an almost preternatural ability to disrupt our lives when we least want to be bothered. Just as we sit down to enjoy a dinner after a long day at work, or are enjoying some quiet time in the evening – the phone rings and shatters that peace, demanding to be picked up. When it’s someone selling duct cleaning on the other end, or seeking to complete a consumer poll about pet food, it’s frustrating that we should have been bothered at all.

Brian Jackson, journalist
Brian Jackson

So in 2008, our government created a solution to this problem – or at least, an attempt to address our grievances about unwanted phone calls. The concept was simple: we’d create a list that allowed anyone to register their number if they did not want to receive any unsolicited commercial calls. Telemarketers would be required to register with, and subscribe to an updated version of this Do Not Call List. If companies broke the rules and called a number on this list, consumers could complain and the companies would be publicly cited or even fined.

But many feel the list isn’t working as it was supposed to. Some say there are so many built-in exemptions that it doesn’t reduce the amount of calls we receive anyway. This week, documented how small businesses that have been cited by the list feel they are being unfairly dealt with by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the enforcers of the list.

Broken Telephone feature story

Part 1: Small firms say Do Not Call List rules ‘unfair and confusing’
Part 2: Do Not Call List ‘costly and ineffective,’ say small businesses

It might lead some to think the list should be scrapped entirely, the bureaucratic tangle of it all cleared away to make room for a fresh start.

Yet in a poll conducted for by Delvinia Data Collection, it appears that most Canadians have registered for the list – and most of those who’ve registered describe the list as at least somewhat effective in stopping unwanted phone calls.

Six out of 10 Canadians have registered for the Do Not Call List, according to the poll results. Of those who’ve registered, 14.7 per cent describe the list as “very effective” saying they receive almost no unwanted calls from telemarketers. Another 53 per cent say the list is “somewhat effective,” that they receive less phone calls than before.

Only 22 per cent said the list is “not effective” and they receive about the same amount of phone calls as before. Almost one in 10 say the list is “somewhat ineffective” or “very ineffective” and they now receive more phone calls than previously.

This AskingCanadians poll of 1155 respondents was conducted for  The data was collected from April 8th to April 11th.

So it appears that for most Canadians that have registered for the list, it is doing what it intended. Maybe it shouldn’t ripped up after all. Yet the perception amongst many Canadians who haven’t registered for the list doesn’t square up with that story.

Of those who haven’t registered, 9.5 per cent think they will get more calls if they do register. Another 25.4 per cent of Canadians believes they will receive the same amount of phone calls.

One in five of those who haven’t registered say they aren’t bothered by telemarketers currently. One in four Canadians say they don’t know how to register (you can do so on the Do Not Call List Web site), and another one in five were not aware the list existed.

While it is clear the list has its problems, the fact that it’s benefitting most of those who signed up for it suggests that it is worth pursuing as an effective tool. Clearly, the CRTC has some work to do around marketing the list as being worth registering for among some Canadians.

Problems with the enforcement process also must be addressed so telemarketers feel that the rules and investigation methods are transparent, consistent, and fair. Yet small businesses must also make an effort to educate themselves about the requirements established by the CRTC and come into compliance with them.

Let’s hammer out the kinks in the Do Not Call List and make it work for all stakeholders – consumers and telemarketers alike. Then we can all eat our dinners in peace.

AskingCanadians is an online survey community with a panel of more than160,000 members across Canada. Joining the AskingCanadians panel is free to Canadians who are in the age of majority in the provinces they reside, or have the permission of their parents or legal guardian. Qu’en pensez-vous is the sister community in Quebec.  AskingCanadians is owned and operated by Delvinia Data Collection for more information go to


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  • Most Canadians are unaware that all who are exempt from the National DNCL are required by law to maintain their own Distinct DNCL. (Telecommunications Act section 41.7) It is well documented that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party consistently break the law by making fundraising calls to those who have asked to be on Harper’s Distinct DNCL. Other parties violate this law as well, but not as egregiously. The CRTC has done nothing whatsoever to enforce this part of the law. This selective enforcement is distorting our democracy in favour of those like Harper who disregard the law.

    The current law and CRTC’s system was crafted by large telemarketing outfits with the intent of making compliance a huge burden on small business, driving them to contract with the large telemarketers. This anti-competitive aspect of the NDNCL is not publicized – broadcasters are afraid to question the CRTC. They know they could lose their licenses.

    The CRTC failed to use readily available technology which would have resulted in a fair, efficient and effective system. For example, the DNCL should never be sold to any telemarketer. Telemarketers should only be able to query the system for permission to call numbers already in their possession. (Australia was able to do this – “mighty” Bell Canada claimed it was “too hard”. Requiring small telemarketers to scrub their own lists is costly, and a prime reason why they don’t bother to comply, or simply give up on telemarketing altogether, losing what should be a legitimate marketing technique. As a result only the big contract telemarketers and small lawbreakers thrive.

    All in all the NDNCL is a wasteful expensive lesson in how government has been co-opted by a few big businesses, which reward CRTC corruption with cushy employment for ex-Commissioners.

    Canadians have been duped again.

  • Sheeva

    The DNCL is definitely NOT working in my favour and I definitely am NOT happy. I’m aware that companies that have business with you such as Bell or the banks are allowed to call. However, not every other day for the same things. Just recently a non-Canadian voice declaring they’re calling from Bell is the same one that has for the past month called me 4 times. Each time I’ve indicated that they should not call anymore, that I was not now or ever interested in changing my services, etc. you get the point. I’m so aggregated with this as well as the banks constant calling that I’ve taken to just hanging up when I hear that little pause before they speak. But this too is not helping since they keep calling and calling and calling. Window replacement firms that I have never done business with, landscaping/weeding firms, painting firms, the list just goes on and on and on. I live in Newmarket, Ontario where every call is unknown (caller ID does not work) and every call is long distance (caller ID unknown). I have no defence except to cancel my phone. Problem is the cell phone has the same problem with sales calls even though I had put myself on that list as well. I’ve given up and now have a special code for friends and family when they call so that I can recognize them. Thanks BIG BUSINESS that’s not supposed to be monopoly anymore.