Political entities issued penalties for using robocalls in violation of CRTC Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules
Penalties totalling $369,000, parties to undertake comprehensive compliance programs
OTTAWA-GATINEAU, May 29, 2013 — Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it has issued seven notices of violation totalling $369,000 in penalties following a wide-ranging investigation into the use of robocalls by political parties, elected officials and telemarketers.
The CRTC received the cooperation of the following parties, firms and an individual who, further to settlement agreements, have paid penalties totaling $277,500: the Wildrose Alliance Political Association, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the New Democratic Party of Canada, RackNine Inc. and Mr. Marc Garneau, M.P.
“We appreciate the cooperation we received during our investigations,” said Andrea Rosen, the CRTC’s Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer. “We expect political party associations and candidates who are running for office to put appropriate safeguards in place to ensure compliance with the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules in future campaigns.”
In addition to paying monetary penalties, those who have cooperated with the CRTC have agreed to cease violating the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and implement comprehensive compliance programs that will include:
- an acknowledgement of all applicable Rules and a commitment to comply fully with them
- the appointment of a compliance officer to ensure ongoing adherence with the Rules
- an education and training program for volunteers and appropriate compliance measures when using third-party firms to make calls
- appropriate record keeping, and
- the promotion of better awareness of the Rules.
The Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer has also issued notices of violation to the Conservative Party of Canada and Mr. Blake Richards, M.P., including penalties of $78,000 and $14,400, respectively. Under the CRTC’s process, the Conservative Party of Canada and Mr. Richards have 30 days to make representations or pay the penalty.
Automated calling devices are used to dial telephone numbers and automatically deliver a pre-recorded message. When these devices are used to make calls on behalf of candidates and political parties, the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules require that:
- Calls are to begin with a clear message identifying the person on whose behalf the call is made, including a mailing address and a local or toll-free number at which a representative of the originator of the message can be reached.
- Calls are to display the originating number or an alternate number where the originator of the call can be reached.
The CRTC continues to investigate other incidences of robocalls.
About the CRTC’s enforcement measures
The CRTC enforces the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules in order to reduce unwanted calls to Canadians. Under its enforcement process, the CRTC can discuss corrective actions with individuals, firms or organizations engaged in telemarketing, which may lead to a settlement that includes a monetary penalty and other corrective measures. The CRTC can also issue warnings and citations, conduct inspections and issue notices of violation.
To date, the CRTC’s efforts have yielded over $2.9 million in penalties, which are remitted to the Receiver General for Canada, and over $740,000 in payments to post-secondary institutions.
The CRTC is an administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.
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The Wildrose Alliance Political Association was issued a notice of violation in relation to six robocall campaigns that occurred between March 2011 and November 2012. The campaigns sought to determine voter preferences or opinions on various subjects. The calls did not identify that they were being made on behalf of the party or provide a mailing address.
The Wildrose Alliance Political Association cooperated fully with the CRTC’s investigation and once it became aware that the calls were in violation of the Rules, it responded in a timely fashion to reach a settlement. The settlement included a monetary penalty of $90,000 and a commitment to establish a comprehensive compliance program to prevent such occurrences in the future.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (Ontario PC Party) was issued a notice of violation in relation to two robocall campaigns that occurred between September 1st and September 7th, 2011. The campaigns sought to determine voter preferences or opinions on various subjects. The calls did not provide the party's clear name, address, and local or toll-free contact telephone number, as required by the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules."
The Ontario PC Party cooperated fully with the CRTC’s investigation. Upon learning that the calls were in violation of the Rules, it agreed to enter into a settlement, which included a monetary penalty of $85,000 and a commitment to establish a comprehensive compliance program to ensure future adherence to the Rules.
RackNine Inc. was issued a notice of violation for 15 robocall campaigns it carried out on behalf of a number of clients between March 2011 and February 1, 2013. RackNine is an Edmonton-based telemarketer that provides automated calling services.
All of the calling campaigns included in the notice of violation were carried out on behalf of political entities conducting polling, surveying or political messaging campaigns. Although these entities paid RackNine to perform services on their behalf and the information conveyed or obtained in the calls was for their benefit, they were not, contrary to the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, identified in the robocall messages.
Prior to being contacted by the CRTC, RackNine was not aware that its practices were in violation of the Rules. It provided information and other cooperation to assist the CRTC with its investigation. As part of a settlement agreement, RackNine has paid a monetary penalty of $60,000 and agreed to develop and implement a compliance program.
The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) was issued a notice of violation for robocalls made between January 11 and 20, 2012 in the electoral district of St-Maurice-Champlain, Quebec. The calls provided an interactive function that connected call recipients to the office telephone of a Member of Parliament who had left the NDP to join another party. The calls in question did not specify that they were being made on behalf of the NDP, nor did they include the call originator’s mailing address and contact telephone number.
The NDP acknowledged that the calls were in violation of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and cooperated fully with the CRTC’s investigation. The settlement reached with the NDP includes a monetary penalty of $40,000 and a commitment to establish a comprehensive compliance program to prevent future such occurrences.
Mr. Marc Garneau, Liberal Member of Parliament for Westmount-Ville-Marie, has been issued a notice of violation for robocalls made in March 2013 in connection with his candidacy for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. While the calls in question identified the originator of the call and provided contact information for Mr. Garneau’s campaign, they did not, as required by the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, state at the outset of the message that they were being made on his behalf and did not include a mailing address. In light of this, Mr. Garneau has paid a monetary penalty of $2,500 and agreed to establish a compliance program to ensure future adherence to the Rules.
The Conservative Party of Canada was issued a notice of violation in relation to a robocall campaign that occurred in Saskatchewan on January 31 and February 1, 2013. The campaign involved proposed changes to electoral riding boundaries in the province. The calls did not identify that they were being made on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada or provide a mailing address. A monetary penalty in the amount of $78,000 was issued following the CRTC’s investigation. The party has 30 days to make representations or pay the penalty.
Mr. Blake Richards, Conservative Member of Parliament for Wild Rose, has been issued a notice of violation with a monetary penalty of $14,400. Two robocall campaigns were carried out in his riding in August and October 2012. The calls did not identify that they were being made on behalf of Mr. Richards or provide a mailing address. Mr. Richards has 30 days to make representations or pay the penalty.
Additional information on the CRTC’s process
Under its enforcement process, the CRTC can discuss corrective actions with individuals, firms or organizations engaged in telemarketing, which may lead to a settlement that includes a monetary penalty and other corrective measures.
Parties that have not reached a settlement and have received a notice of violation may make written representations to the CRTC within 30 days of receipt to have it reviewed (further to paragraph 72.07(2)(b) of the Telecommunications Act). If they choose to make representations relating to the amount of the penalties set out in a notice, such representations must include the most recent audited financial statements of the entity named in a notice. If audited financial statements are unavailable, they are to provide unaudited financial statements signed by a senior officer of the entity named in the notice, attesting to the accuracy of the financial statements.
Further to paragraph 72.07(2)(c) and subsection 72.08(3) of the Act, if entities do not pay the penalty specified in a notice OR make representations in accordance with a notice, they will be deemed to have committed the violations outlined in a notice, and the CRTC may impose the penalty.
Further to subsection 72.08(1) of the Act, if full payment of the specified amount is received, entities will be deemed to have committed the violations. Payment will be accepted in complete satisfaction of the penalty and no further action will be taken.
Payment or representations must be actually received, not merely sent, by the date set out in the notice.
Where representations are not made, any penalty not paid by the due date will be assessed interest on the unpaid amount beginning on the due date and ending on the day before the day on which payment is received by the CRTC. The CRTC will charge interest calculated and compounded monthly at the average bank rate plus three percent (3%). The CRTC will pursue collection measures for any amounts owing after the due date, which may include setting-off such amounts against any refunds-owing to the debtor by the Canada Revenue Agency.
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