On December 21, 2007, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it had awarded Bell Canada a five-year contract to operate the National Do-Not-Call List (the "List").

Under the intended system, consumers will be able to register their telephone numbers with Bell Canada at no charge, and non-exempt telemarketers will be required to subscribe to the List and not call any persons on it. In addition to being responsible for registering numbers and updating the List, Bell Canada will be responsible for receiving consumer complaints regarding telemarketing calls. In making the award, the CRTC noted that Bell Canada was the only one of four bidders which was compliant with the request for proposal issued in mid-2007. The CRTC award requires that the List be operational by September 30, 2008.

The establishment of the List results from amendments to the Telecommunications Act adopted in November 2005, which are intended to reduce the volume of unwanted telemarketing calls that Canadians receive at home.

While the announcement of the creation of a do-not-call registry was initially hailed by many as an important step for consumer privacy protection, rules governing the operation and management of the List have been the subject of harsh criticism. Rather than taking a strong, pro-consumer approach, the CRTC has been criticized for caving into the opposition of special interest groups. Of greatest concern to many is the exceptions created for some of the heaviest users of telemarketing practices, including charities, political parties, polling companies, newspapers, and businesses with existing business relationships (e.g. businesses from which a person has purchased goods or services within the previous 18 months).

The CRTC’s decision to outsource operation of the List to the private sector has also been criticized, particularly in light of the awarding of the contract to one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies. Commentators have also criticized the fact that no funds have been allocated for the creation and operation of the List, as the List is intended to be self-financed. This has raised fears that the cost of operating the List will be passed onto consumers.

Until the List is in place, consumers will continue to have to separately contact each telemarketing company to have their numbers removed from call lists. Implementation of the List will allow consumers to be added to a master do-not-call list which must be followed by non-exempt telemarketers. Following implementation of the List, consumers will still have to separately contact exempt telemarketers if they wish to be removed from exempt telemarketer call lists.

The CRTC announcement is available at:

http://tinyurl.com/2srzu2  

More information regarding the rules and operations of the List following implementation is available at:

http://tinyurl.com/2wgrty