Still getting annoying telemarketer calls? CRTC survey finds many firms don't follow do-not-call list rules

Most telemarketers polled in a new CRTC survey said they haven't registered with Canada's do-not-call list. Critics say the survey is more proof the list is a dud.

'It's like complaining about snow in Canada, it's just a fact of life'

Larry McLean in Toronto says he still gets bombarded with unsolicited telemarketing calls even though he's on Canada's do-not-call list. (Larry McLean)

Signed up for the national do-not-call list and wondering why you're still being bombarded with telemarketing calls?

Toronto resident Larry McLean sure is.

"The last couple of years, they're coming even more," he said.

He recalls adding his phone number to the do-not-call list years ago. But McLean says he usually gets a telemarketing call every day, often from real estate agents hoping to sell his home or contractors offering renovation deals.

"'We've got guys on your street, we can give you a discount, blah, blah, blah,'" McLean said of the renovation offers. "It's a pain."

Telemarketers ignore the rules

A new CRTC survey may help shed some light on why the calls just won't stop. 

Most telemarketers polled in the survey revealed they weren't following the list's rules. And 22 per cent admitted they were "not at all familiar" with the regulations.

The CRTC introduced the list in 2008 for Canadians who don't want to be disturbed by sales pitches at home. So far, people have added 2.5 million phone numbers that are supposed to be off limits to telemarketers.

On behalf of the CRTC, Environics Research polled 1,202 Canadian businesses by phone between Feb. 12 and March 15 and found 12 per cent of the companies do telemarketing.

Of that number, only two per cent said they had subscribed to the list, giving them access to the numbers they shouldn't call.

The two main reasons given for not subscribing were not being aware it was necessary or being exempt from the rules.

Telemarketers who solicit other businesses or customers with whom they have a business relationship don't have to consult the list.

But they still must register with the system and keep a record of current customers who don't wish to be contacted. The only companies exempt from registering are those hired to push products or services for other businesses.

Yet only six per cent of all telemarketers polled had registered with the list — even though almost all of them were making calls on behalf of their own business.

Of the rule-breakers, 31 per cent blamed a "lack of awareness."

CRTC says no big deal

The CRTC said it's still analyzing the survey results, which could affect future outreach campaigns for telemarketers.

However, spokeswoman Patricia Valladao stressed that due to the small survey size and the fact that some businesses are exempt, it would be inappropriate to draw conclusions about compliance rates.

The survey cost Canadian taxpayers $46,000.

Valladao said 952 telemarketers are registered with the list. CBC News asked how that number compares with the total number of telemarketers in Canada.

Valladao didn't say, responding that "the steadily and noticeable increase in registrants year over year suggests that our compliance and outreach efforts have been successful."

Marketing expert Lindsay Meredith said 952 registrants sounds "disproportionately small" considering the number of Canadian businesses that do telemarketing.

Is the list a dud?

He also believes that, while the CRTC survey is small, it does provide further proof the list isn't working.

"We see enough evidence on the table already," said Meredith, a professor at Simon Fraser University. "It's an inconvenient truth."

He said even though he's on the list, he still gets about three unsolicited sales calls a day.
According to a CRTC survey, 31 per cent of telemarketers who didn't register with the do-not-call list said they were unaware it was required. (iStock)

The Consumers' Association of Canada reports it continues to get a few calls a week from people complaining they signed up but are still being pestered by telemarketers.

President Bruce Cran believes telemarketers don't take the list seriously. "They treat it with contempt," he said.

Meredith believes the commission needs to launch a major advertising campaign and give stern warnings to all companies not following the rules.

CRTC claims it's on it

The CRTC says it conducts both educational and crackdown campaigns. Just yesterday, the commission announced it has teamed up with 10 international enforcement agencies to combat spam and unsolicited sales calls.

And last year, the CRTC handed out nearly three dozen violation notices totalling more than $2 million in penalties to telemarketers.

The culprits included four air duct cleaning companies, which paid a total of $55,000 for making unsolicited sales calls. The companies contacted people using foreign call centres.

But that doesn't mean Canadians on the do-not-call list will no longer hear from duct cleaners. Len Dvorkin in Thornhill, Ont., said he got a call just the other day.

"It was our friendly duct-cleaning guys."

Dvorkin signed up with the list in 2014 and is still bombarded with unsolicited calls.

The CRTC says it recognizes it needs to continue its efforts to ensure telemarketers play by the rules.

'Fact of life'

But Canadians who believe the list doesn't work have already resorted to alternative solutions.

Toronto resident McLean says if he sees a 1-800 or 1-888 number on his call display, he doesn't answer the phone.

Dvorkin avoids calls from numbers he doesn't recognize. If a telemarketer manages to get him on the phone, he quickly ends the call.

Dvorkin believes the unwanted calls will never stop and that avoidance will continue to be the best remedy.

"It's like complaining about snow in Canada, it's just a fact of life. I deal with it quickly and move on."


Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Sophia Harris covers business and consumer news. Contact:


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