Canada's highly touted do-not-call list is having the opposite effect, leading to more telemarketer calls, says the Consumers' Association of Canada.
"It's a travesty," president Bruce Cran said Friday. "Here we have all these people thinking they were getting rid of incoming phone calls. Anyone who is registered should suspect their phone number is being broadcast to the four winds."
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission launched the registry in September to great fanfare, promising that those who registered would see a drop in unwanted calls soliciting goods and service. Millions of Canadians have registered their names, home phone numbers and in some cases their cellphone numbers.
The problem, said Cran, is that the CRTC sells the registry list online. "In Toronto, you can get 600,000 names for $50," he said.
Telemarketers are required to subscribe to the list, paying an annual fee that depends on how often they chose to download updates. Those who violate the list by calling registrants may be fined up to $15,000 per call.
Chilliwack, B.C., real estate consultant Jim Stocco said he suspects the "avalanche of calls" he and his wife have been fielding lately is a result of having registered with the do-not-call list.
Before registering, Stocco had managed to bring unwanted phone solicitations down to about one a week by calling back telemarketers and asking them to take his phone number off their list.
"This do-not-call registry has made things worse. We now get five or six calls a day," he said. "We both work at home and have clients across North America so we will answer calls. It has been a major irritant."
Stocco said when he tries to call telemarketers back to ask that his number be taken off their list, he gets a voice mailbox that does not accept messages.
Glenn Thibeault, NDP critic for consumer protection, wrote to the federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart on Jan. 16 urging her to investigate.
"When the service is not only ineffective but assists in worsening the problem, Canadians have a right to be concerned, " he said.
A spokesperson for the commissioner said Friday that she was aware of the problem before being contacted by Thibeault.
"We are concerned as well," said Heather Ormerod. "We are in contact with the CRTC and trying to gather relevant information to see how to proceed."