On July 3, 2007 the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a decision that outlines a comprehensive framework for unsolicited telecommunications received by consumers. The framework includes rules relating to both a National Do Not Call List (the List) and to telemarketing activities more generally. This framework, called “The Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules,” will come into effect when the List becomes operational.

The CRTC is in the process of selecting the third-party operator that will be responsible for administering the List. The Request for Proposal process closed on September 10, 2007 and the four proposals received are being evaluated. The CRTC has indicated that the evaluation process will be completed by the end of October 2007. The successful bidder will then submit to the CRTC a timeline for implementation and a start date to operate the List. As a result, the specific timing for when the List and the new Telemarketing Rules will be in effect is not yet known; however, companies that engage in telemarketing should begin to familiarize themselves with the new rules now.

National Do Not Call List

The List will be a Canada-wide registry for consumers to register telecommunications numbers at which they do not wish to receive unsolicited communication, including telemarketing calls. Companies will not be able to make calls to the numbers on the List, following a 31-day “grace” period in which they are expected to update their internal lists. Every company must obtain a subscription to the List and pay applicable fees before they begin telemarketing, and must not circulate the List outside of their organization.

Despite the general prohibition against telemarketing to a telecommunications number registered on the List, companies may contact clients on the List if they first obtain a consumer’s express consent to do so. Express consent must include the telecommunications number to which the call may be placed. Such consent may be given in writing, verbally, or electronically, provided a documented record of the consent is created. Consumers may withdraw consent at any time and companies must prove they had consent if challenged.

Existing Business Relationship Exemption

In addition, companies are exempt from the List prohibitions if they have an “existing business relationship” with the client, so long as the consumer has not asked the company specifically not to call. An “existing business relationship” is created when: the consumer purchases products within 18 months prior to the telecommunication; the consumer makes an inquiry or application regarding the company’s products 6 months prior to the telecommunication; or when there is an existing written contract between the consumer and the company, or such contract has expired within the previous 18 months. This exemption does not override privacy law considerations; companies should still obtain consent even where they have “existing business relationships” with consumers.

In addition to the rules specifically related to the List, the CRTC will be implementing general Telemarketing Rules as part of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules. These rules provide much-needed clarity regarding telemarketing communications. The following is an overview of some of the new rules.

General Telemarketing Rules

Each company must maintain its own do not call list and honour a consumer’s request not to be called. Companies must provide consumers with a telephone number through which they may verify their registration on the in-house list, although they do not need to provide consumers with a unique registration number confirming requests.

In addition, a telemarketer calling from a company must provide caller identification – including their name, the name of the company, and (at the consumer’s request) a telephone number at which complaints may be registered – as soon as the intended recipient of the call is reached. Call display numbers must not be blocked and sequential dialling is not permitted. Finally, calls may only be made between 9:00am and 9:30pm on weekdays, and between 10:00am and 6:00pm on weekends.