Bell fined $1.3M for breaking do-not-call rules
The CRTC has fined Bell Canada $1.3 million after telemarketing calls were made to Canadians who had specifically asked not to receive them.
It's the biggest penalty ever imposed by the regulator for breaking the rules restricting such calls.
The regulator found that between January and October of this year, third-party telemarketers acting on behalf of Bell Canada had improperly made calls to some of the millions of Canadians who have registered their numbers with the national do-not-call list or to others who were on Bell Canada's own internal do-not-call list.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said these calls came from independent telemarketers that Bell had hired to market its various services — including television, telephone, wireless and internet services.
"Even though the calls in this instance were made by third parties, Bell Canada must ultimately ensure that the rules are followed."
Compliance review underway: Bell
Bell Canada said it has already made changes to its compliance policies.
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"Bell has terminated its relationships with two telemarketers and suspended several others due to non-compliance with the … rules," the company said in a statement.
"The company worked closely with the CRTC to investigate complaints, determining that some independent telemarketers acting on behalf of Bell were found to have violated both the CRTC's and Bell's own calling rules," it said. "No violations were committed by any Bell-operated call centres."
The CRTC also found that Bell Canada had used automated calling devices to call its prepaid mobile customers without obtaining prior consent. It noted that Bell Canada does not consider that to be a violation of the rules, but Bell nevertheless has agreed to immediately stop making automated calls and will pay $266,000 to the Institute for Information and Systems Engineering at Concordia University.
Industry Minister Tony Clement applauded the decision to issue the penalty.
"This settlement underscores the success of our government's do-not-call list and demonstrates that Canadians are being protected," he said in a press release.
"In imposing these penalties, the Harper government is proving that we are prepared to take serious and decisive steps to protect Canadians from the intrusiveness of unsolicited telemarketing calls," he added.
2nd big fine in a week
The do-not-call provisions allow Canadians to register their personal land line and cell phone numbers with a central registry. Ironically, that registry is maintained and operated by Bell Canada.
Once the numbers are registered, telemarketers have 31 days to purge the new numbers from their own lists of numbers they can't call, unless they are exempt from the provisions of the do-not-call program.
Some of the exemptions include charities, political parties and candidates, businesses that have an established relationship with a consumer, and market research and polling firms. Those firms can continue to call Canadians even if they have registered their numbers with the do-not-call list.
It's the second major enforcement action announced by the regulator in less than a week. Last Friday, the CRTC announced it had fined a Calgary-based telemarketing firm, Xentel DM, $500,000 for misusing the charity exemption to the rules governing the national do-not-call list.
Following similar efforts in other countries, Canada launched its do-not call list in September 2008 with the aim of reducing the huge number of annoying, unsolicited and unwanted sales calls Canadians received at home.