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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The New DO NOT CALL LIST Takes effect today

Canadians now have a new tool to block annoying calls from telemarketers.

A national do-not-call list comes into force Tuesday. The list is being run by Canada's broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission.

Once a number is on the list, telemarketers will be barred from dialing that number, or face a hefty fine of up to $15,000 if they do call.

There are some exceptions, such as pollsters, researchers and government agencies.

It appears the list will be eagerly received - a new poll found that two-thirds of the one-thousand Canadians questioned intend to get their names on the list.

Those who want to register a phone number can go to www.LNNTE-DNCL.gc.ca or call 1-866-580-3625.

Telemarketing companies also have to register and purchase a subscription to access phone numbers they will be required to block from their calling lists.

But many companies are exempt from the new regulations, including registered charities, newspapers, political parties and polling and market research firms.

Also exempt is any company a caller has had business with in the past 18 months.

To solve that problem, Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has created a third-party Do Not Call List to pick up the slack.

"Once you exclude the political parties and survey companies, who is left?" Geist told CTV.ca.

Geist runs iOptOut.ca, a web service that allows users to register their phone numbers to block calls from exempted companies. The site issues an opt-out request on the user's behalf.

So far, 50,000 people have used it to make a total of five million opt-out requests.

"Many people will be disappointed when the number of calls they receive doesn't diminish," Geist said of the official Do Not Call List.

Canadians can also visit the Canadian Marketing Association's Do Not Contact service, located here. There is also a movement dedicated to reducing paper-based advertising, called the Red Dot Campaign.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) says because it has the power to enforce the new policies, Canadians will receive fewer telemarketing calls after they register.

"I think we'll soon see a reduction in the numbers of calls, but over time it will increase as companies and organizations become more and more compliant," Denis Carmel, spokesperson with the CRTC, told CTV.ca. "Some organizations could be oblivious of those rules and their responsibilities today, but over time I'm sure that everybody will understand their responsibilities and will be in compliance."

A new poll suggests Canadians have high hopes that the DOT CALL LIST will be a successful venture.

A VoxPop survey has found that 61 per cent of Canadians are sure that despite exemptions to the list, they will still get fewer telemarketing calls.

Canadians can also ask to be added to the internal Do Not Call lists of exempted companies, which the CRTC also has the power to enforce.

The CRTC can levy fines of up to $1,500 to individuals who violate the new rules and up to $15,000 to corporations.

The exemptions are similar to those associated with a similar U.S. registry, which has been very successful at reducing the number of telemarketing calls that Americans receive, according to VoxPop.

A Harris Poll conducted in the U.S. last October found that 91 per cent of respondents received fewer telemarketing calls since registering with the list. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said they received far fewer calls, while 18 per cent reported that they did not receive any telemarketing calls after joining the do not call list.

To date, more than 145 million people have registered for that list.

"The success of the U.S. do not call list suggests Canadians are right to believe their no-call list will be an efficient barrier against unwanted telemarketing calls," VoxPop spokeperson BrendanWycks, executive director of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, said in a statement.

VoxPop is a campaign by the MRIA designed to advance free speech through public opinion surveys.

Research suggests the list will be quite popular with Canadians.

A Harris/Decima survey found that 72 per cent of Canadians will add their numbers to the DO NOT CALL LIST.

However, the survey, conducted on behalf of Pitney Bowes Canada, showed some businesses may be unaware of the new guidelines for telemarketing.

While 73 per cent of business owners know of the list, about 61 per cent of small business owners said they were unaware they could be fined for violating the new policy.

Companies will first get a warning letter in case they were unaware of the new regulations, Carmel said.

If a company continues to violate the rules, it will get a "notice of violation," which they can contest.

The CRTC would then rule if the company broke the rules and issue a fine.

Companies forced to scale back their telemarketing operations do have options. The Harris/Decima survey found that 52 per cent of respondents would prefer that companies solicit first-time business from them via the mail.

Forty-nine per cent said they also prefer hearing from companies they already do business with through the mail.

Direct mail marketing is a cost-effective way for companies to reach consumers, experts say.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, each $1 spent on direct mail marketing leads to $11 in sales, which is twice the return of any other advertising medium.

The companies have 31 days to add new numbers to their do not call lists.

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