What You Should Know About Telemarketing in Canada

As a consumer, you may receive unwanted, unsolicited telemarketing calls during which salespeople try to sell you products or services. Here is what you should know about these calls:

How to register on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL)

To help reduce the number of telemarketing calls that you receive, it is important to register your number on the National DNCL.

You can register your number online or by phone.

To register online:

To register by phone:

  • Call toll-free 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625).
  • If you are calling from a TTY device, call 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).

How to avoid receiving telemarketing calls

Telemarketers may obtain your telephone number in a number of ways, including:

  • From companies that are in the business of generating lists of numbers;
  • From contest forms or applications that you fill out;
  • By selecting random numbers to call; and
  • From companies that you deal with.

To lessen the chances of a telemarketer getting your number:

  • Be careful about providing your number to anyone; and
  • On forms, always check off any privacy check-box that indicates you “Do not wish to be contacted”.

If there is no privacy option, then be cautious about providing your telephone number to a company. You may also ask companies you do business with to not share your telephone number or any other personal information with any third parties.

How to know if the caller identification (ID) information might be spoofed

Caller ID is an option available on most telephones that allows you to see information on the identity and number of the caller before answering the call. Some telemarketers will mask or falsify this information. This practice is called “spoofing” and is an indication the call may not be legitimate.

A spoofed number can appear as a string of digits such as 000-000-0000 or 123-456-7890, a random number or another company or person’s real number.

If you receive a telemarketing call from a person or a company that you believe has spoofed the caller id, please file a complaint with us following the instructions below.

How to make a complaint about telemarketing calls once you are on the National DNCL

To prepare to make a telemarketing complaint to the CRTC, make sure that you have the following information available:

  • The telephone number at which you received the telemarketing call;
  • The telephone number and name of the telemarketer that appeared on the ID caller screen or that the person over the phone gave you;
  • The date of the call;
  • The exact time of the call as it appeared on the caller ID screen;
  • Whether the complaint relates to a fax, residential, or business number; and
  • Any other information that you have about the call.

For more information, please see our infographic and video.

Once you have this information, you can make a complaint online or by phone.

To make a complaint online:

To make a complaint by phone:

  • Call toll-free 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625).
  • If you are calling from a TTY device, call 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).

If you are complaining about fraudulent calls or a spoofing incident you can also report the calls to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

How the CRTC handles telemarketing complaints from consumers

The CRTC takes consumer telemarketing complaints very seriously. It assesses complaints about violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, including:

  • National Do Not Call List (National DNCL) Rules;
  • Telemarketing Rules; and
  • Automated Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) Rules

This includes investigating complaints about international telemarketing calls. The International Do Not Call Network was created in October 2011 to facilitate cooperation between agencies that enforce telemarketing rules in their respective countries. (For more information, see the news release.)

It also includes investigating spoofed calls, as the Telemarketing Rules prohibit telemarketers from spoofing or hiding telephone numbers.

Complaints are assessed and forwarded

The National DNCL operator collects all consumer complaints and conducts an initial assessment of each one. For example, if you complain about a telemarketing call, the operator makes sure that your number was registered with the National DNCL for at least 31 days before you received the call.

The National DNCL operator then forwards all complaints to the CRTC, which determines whether a complaint warrants further investigation, based on their initial assessment.

Will I hear back from the CRTC about my complaint?

Because of the large number of complaints, it is not possible to follow up with each and every complainant. Also, in keeping with the rules of procedural fairness, CRTC staff do not comment on the status or possible outcome of an investigation until it has been concluded and reported on the CRTC’s website.

CRTC staff contact complainants only if they need a statement to support a violation, which typically involves obtaining more information about the complaint.

How the CRTC enforces rules?

When the CRTC receives a consumer complaint that the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules are not being followed, the CRTC follows a clearly defined process for investigating the complaint and enforcing these rules.

Investigating complaints

Once an investigation is underway, the CRTC may contact the telemarketer involved, often compelling the provision of specific information.

The CRTC's investigation activities may include:

  • Requesting additional information from the consumer;
  • Requiring information, on-site visits and/or interviews with the telemarketer; and
  • Requiring information from third parties such as telecommunications service providers.

If the CRTC determines that there is a violation, it takes measures to bring telemarketers into compliance with the rules. These measures include any of the following:

Ensuring compliance

Citation

The CRTC may issue a citation notifying a telemarketer that it has violated the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and requires that the telemarketer to take immediate corrective action. The telemarketer is provided with an opportunity to claim a defense or exemption within 14 days of the issuance of the citation. The CRTC will publish the citation 30 days after issuance unless a valid claim is made, in which case the citation will be revoked.

Firms are expected to amend their telemarketing practices to ensure future compliance with the Rules. If further violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules occur the telemarketer may be subject to a notice of violation imposing Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs).

Agreement with specific undertakings

At any time during the course of an investigation, a telemarketer is welcome to discuss with the CRTC potential corrective actions that the telemarketer can take to bring itself into compliance with the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules. The outcome of these discussions could be a signed agreement with specific undertakings to implement immediate and ongoing corrective measures and may include the payment of an AMP.

The CRTC may enter into an agreement that would include a payment in lieu of a Notice of Violation setting out AMPs.

The earlier a telemarketer approaches the CRTC to resolve the potential violation, the more advantageous the terms of settlement are likely to be for that telemarketer.

In cases where there is a serious breach of the rules, the CRTC may move directly to issue a notice of violation imposing Administrative Monetary Penalties.

Administrative monetary penalties (AMP)

The CRTC has the legislative authority to impose administrative monetary penalties on any telemarketer that violates the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.

The maximum penalty for a violation is $1,500 in the case of an individual and $15,000 in the case of a corporation.

A violation that continues for more than one day constitutes a separate violation for each day during which it continues.

The CRTC will prepare an investigation report in cases that could result in a notice of violation being issued to the telemarketer.

Notice of violation

If the CRTC Chief Compliance Officer believes on reasonable grounds that the telemarketer has committed a violation of the rules, a notice of violation will be issued to that telemarketer.

The notice of violation will identify the violation and set out the monetary penalty for that violation. Factors that the Chief Compliance Officer will consider when determining the amount of a monetary penalty include:

  • the nature of the violation;
  • the number and frequency of complaints and violations;
  • whether the penalty would incent compliance; and
  • the potential for future violation.