Report on the Operation of the National Do Not Call List for the period April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016

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Presented to:

The Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

September 30, 2016

Table of Contents

Message from the Chairman and CEO

I am pleased to present the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) report on the operation of the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) for 2015-16. This report provides an update on the CRTC’s activities that ensure telemarketers respect the choice millions of Canadians have made by registering their numbers on the National DNCL.

The CRTC has a number of tools at its disposal to promote compliance with the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and to investigate alleged violations. For example, in November 2015, the CRTC executed, for the first time, an inspection warrant to enter and inspect a property in Brampton, Ontario. Evidence collected at the property contributed to this investigation, which resulted in the CRTC requiring five companies selling anti-virus software to pay over $640,000 for making telemarketing calls to Canadians.

The CRTC is also committed to helping Canadians protect their privacy. We have issued several consumer alerts to warn the public about fraudulent activities, such as telemarketing scams targeting newly arrived Syrian refugees. Staff also held outreach sessions with sectors where complaints from Canadians have been most prevalent, such as home security and insurance and financial services.

In 2015, we launched a public consultation to better understand the features currently available to help Canadians better manage unsolicited telecommunications and illegitimate telemarketing calls. In the coming months, we will provide tools to help Canadians become more aware of the call-management features offered by different telecommunications service providers.

Given that telemarketing calls can originate from anywhere in the world, the CRTC is collaborating actively with international enforcement agencies to combat nuisance telecommunications. In March 2016, the CRTC and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission signed a memorandum of understanding. This agreement will promote closer collaboration in the enforcement of Canadian and American telemarketing and spam laws. In June 2016, the CRTC signed an agreement with 10 enforcement agencies from across the globe, which will foster the sharing of information and intelligence regarding unsolicited telecommunications.

Over the past year, the CRTC has made significant progress in its efforts to reduce the number of unwanted telecommunications Canadians receive. We will pursue our efforts to protect Canadians from unsolicited calls, while ensuring that Canadians businesses

can make legitimate telemarketing calls. As well, we will work with the telemarketing industry and telecommunications service providers to develop effective and innovative approaches to enhance protections for Canadians and reduce illegitimate calls.

Jean-Pierre Blais
Chairman and CEO, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is an administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest. Its mandate includes the responsibility to protect Canadians from unsolicited telecommunications. Further background information on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) and the CRTC’s recent enforcement activities may be found on the CRTC’s website.

The main legislative authorities for the CRTC are

The Telecommunications Act requires that the CRTC report on the operation of the National DNCL on an annual basis, as follows:

41.6(1) The Commission shall, within six months after the end of each fiscal year, deliver a report to the Minister on the operation of the national do not call list in that fiscal year.

Content of report

(2) The report shall set out any costs or expenditures related to the list, the number of Canadians using the list, the number of telemarketers accessing the list, any incon­sistencies in the prohibitions or requirements of the Commission under section 41 that are applicable to the operation of the list, and an analysis of the effectiveness of the list.

Tabling of report

(3) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report referred to in subsection (1) to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the Minister receives the report.

How the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) Works

In 2006, Parliament amended the Telecommunications Act to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the authority to establish a national do not call list. This authority extended the CRTC’s existing powers to regulate unsolicited telecommunications. In 2007, the CRTC established a comprehensive regulatory framework for unsolicited telemarketing calls and other unsolicited telecommunications. The aim of the framework is to protect the privacy of Canadians and prevent undue inconvenience and nuisance from unsolicited telecommunications, while still allowing legitimate uses of telemarketing telecommunications. 

The Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules (the Rules)

The protection against specific types of unsolicited telecommunications is governed by the Rules, which comprise three main parts:

The Rules apply to those who conduct unsolicited telecommunications, whether for themselves or on behalf of a third party. Telemarketers are prohibited from initiating a call to a number that has been registered on the National DNCL. Telemarketers are also required to maintain their own internal do not call lists (internal DNCLs). An internal DNCL is a list that a company must keep to track requests from consumers and businesses to have their telecommunications numbers added to their internal DNCL, whether or not these numbers are registered on the National DNCL.

Bell Canada (Bell) is currently operating the National DNCL on a multi-year-contract basis. As the National DNCL operator, Bell is responsible for

National DNCL Results for 2015-16

The CRTC’s compliance and enforcement work under the Rules encompasses four major activities that, supported by regulatory policy development, contribute to the CRTC’s goals of promoting compliance and discouraging violations. These activities are interdependent and complementary, but they each serve a different purpose and can be applied in combination as appropriate to the circumstances at hand.

This graphic shows the CRTC’s compliance cycle.
Long Description

This graphic shows the CRTC’s compliance cycle.

Promoting Compliance through education and outreach, social media, information bulletins, frequently asked questions, new releases, and enforcement advisories.

Monitoring Compliance by collecting and analysing complaints and data, identifying trends and threats, data feeds, inspections, monitoring post enforcement action, and environmental scans.

Investigating Non-Compliance through requests for information, warrants, notices to produce and preservation demands.

Responding to Non-Compliance using warning letters and citation, notices of violations, negotiated settlements, administrative monetary penalties and injunctions.

Promoting Compliance

The CRTC engages in compliance promotion activities so that entities have the information they need to conduct unsolicited telecommunications in a manner that is in compliance with the Rules. The CRTC uses a range of communications products and distribution channels, including social media, to raise awareness, provide guidance, and inform telemarketers of their regulatory “do’s and dont’s.” They include

The CRTC often targets these activities towards specific industry sectors in which awareness of the National DNCL may be low. The CRTC’s communications products are continually updated to reflect changes in CRTC policies and past experience with the Rules. The CRTC also responds to calls, emails, and other types of correspondence from Canadians seeking information about the Rules and the National DNCL.

As part of a strategy to promote general compliance with the Rules, the CRTC also communicates on its website the results of its investigations into non-compliance, which may lead to the issuance of citations or notices of violation (NoVs), and the lists of entities that receive them. Citations and NoVs are described on page 12.

The CRTC also provides information to Canadians about the National DNCL, such as how they can protect themselves by registering their telecommunications numbers on the National DNCL, and how they can assist the CRTC by filing complaints with the National DNCL operator. In addition, the CRTC issues consumer alerts to inform Canadians about emerging scams in order to help consumers protect themselves. Information on Canadians’ participation in the National DNCL is set out on page 18.

2015-16 Results

In 2015-16, the CRTC’s webpages that provide information about the Rules and the National DNCL received over 92,800 unique visits.

While the CRTC’s outreach and education efforts have helped improve knowledge and understanding of the legal and regulatory requirements associated with the Rules, the CRTC recognizes that there continues to be a need to proactively disseminate information within specific industry sectors and/or types of businesses where complaints from consumers are most prevalent, such as in home improvement and duct cleaning.

To help Canadians protect themselves, the CRTC released several consumer alerts to warn them about emerging scams, such as those involving individuals claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency, the National DNCL operator, or well-known vacation companies. The alerts included a descriptive warning of the type of misleading, illegal, or fraudulent activity, and information such as providing useful links to register a number on the DNCL and to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

In 2015-16, the CRTC held 17 compliance outreach sessions to provide information and promote compliance with industry representatives from home improvement, home security, insurance and financial services, small and medium-sized businesses, and marketing and privacy associations. The sessions were delivered across Canada during visits to Calgary, Montréal, Ottawa, St. John’s, Toronto, and Vancouver. They were designed to inform and to improve compliance by explaining how the Rules regime works, who is subject to the requirements, how to comply, and what the consequences of non-compliance and the benefits of compliance are. Each session included a Question and Answer period in which participants were able to ask for clarification. The CRTC then had the opportunity to incorporate this feedback into its subsequent outreach sessions.

To complement the CRTC’s 2015-16 outreach sessions, the CRTC Chairman and CEO delivered a keynote address at the “Protecting Canadians from Unwanted Communications” event hosted by the Canadian Marketing Association. The audience was composed of representatives from the telecommunications sector, local businesses, and media. The focus of the presentation was to promote compliance with the law and prevent recidivism, and to give attendees the opportunity to learn about recent enforcement updates and to ask questions to make sure that their activities comply with the law.

While the CRTC has some quantitative and qualitative data that speaks to the effectiveness of the Rules regime, it was interested in augmenting this data by compiling additional information on Canadian businesses to whom the Rules apply directly. Therefore, the CRTC conducted public opinion research in February and March 2016 to obtain further information on the scope of telemarketing activity in Canada and help inform possible improvements to the CRTC’s compliance and enforcement program.

Between February 23 and March 15, 2016, Environics Research Group, on behalf of the CRTC, conducted a telephone survey with a representative sample of 1,202 Canadian businesses. The survey – designed as an exploratory piece of research and perspective – provided data from Canadian businesses on their participation in telemarketing, their awareness of the Rules, their compliance activities, barriers they may face in achieving compliance, and on additional tools they may need to improve compliance.

Overall, the results indicated that:

The public opinion research report was released on May 27, 2016.

Monitoring Compliance

The CRTC works under the assumption that most telemarketers and others who conduct unsolicited telecommunications want to comply with the Rules and participate in the Rules regime. Compliance involves registering with the National DNCL operator and purchasing subscriptions to the National DNCL before making telemarketing calls to Canadians. The National DNCL operator plays a key role in the CRTC’s monitoring of compliance with the Rules.

The CRTC also collects and analyzes complaints and other data to guide its compliance and enforcement activities. In selecting cases to investigate, the CRTC considers, among other factors, whether there are significant compliance issues or trends that emerge in a particular industry sector or that are widespread, whether there are cases that would provide important clarification on the application of the Rules, or whether there are repeat violators.

For instance, in the latter category, telemarketers that, as a result of violations of the Rules, have concluded a negotiated settlement with the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer, are often required to submit reports that set out their compliance programs, usually within three months of the date of the settlement agreement. Such compliance programs typically include developing corporate compliance policies and procedures; implementing training and education programs; implementing mechanisms for monitoring, auditing, and reporting; adopting consistent disciplinary procedures; and eliminating any corporate policies that may provide incentives for employees to violate the Rules. The CRTC also ensures compliance through negotiated settlements and follows up on cases of repeat violations.

The CRTC also conducts inspections of business premises to monitor compliance with the Rules, or as part of its investigations.

2015-16 Results

Telemarketers participate in the National DNCL regime by both registering with the National DNCL operator and subscribing to the National DNCL. Since the inception of the National DNCL in 2008, there have been over 12,400 telemarketer registrations with the National DNCL operator. Of these, over 575 registrations (5%) were from entities originating from countries outside Canada, the majority being from the U.S.

In 2015-16, 741 telemarketers were registered with the National DNCL operator, an increase of 16% over the previous year. Of those telemarketers, 46 were from outside Canada, including 43 from the U.S. and 1 each from India, Mexico, and the Philippines.

In 2015-16, telemarketers that were registered with the National DNCL operator bought 2,598 subscriptions to the National DNCL to obtain access to telecommunications numbers ranging from one area code for one month to all area codes for one year. This represents an increase of 355 subscriptions, or 16%, from the previous year.

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Investigating Non-Compliance

The CRTC’s investigations into potential non-compliance with the Rules are complex due to the volume, nature, and potential foreign origin of the violations, and are amplified by rapid advances in technology. Whereas consumer complaints have historically been the predominant basis for case selection, other data sources are growing in importance. For example, as a result of its efforts to develop partnerships with other enforcement agencies, the CRTC continues to receive and provide case leads from and to its domestic and international partners with respect to alleged violations of the Rules that span jurisdictions. Such cases typically involve illegitimate telemarketing calls that also trigger possible criminal offences, such as fraud, which is outside the Commission’s jurisdiction.

The CRTC’s approach to investigations is supported by large amounts of data collected from multiple sources, including complaints and voice honeypots,Footnote 1 and various analytics. The CRTC’s intelligence analysts process data using a variety of sophisticated tools and technologies to generate intelligence, which is in turn used to make strategic decisions on where to invest compliance and enforcement efforts, and to identify high-impact cases to investigate. The intelligence is also used to design compliance strategies that are tailored to particular issues across industry groups or particular industry sectors.

2015-16 Results

In 2015-16, the CRTC implemented strategies to improve its capacity to reach violators of the Rules beyond Canadian borders and address issues raised by technological advances, such as illegitimate caller identification (ID) spoofing.Footnote 2 These strategies entailed

In 2015-16, the CRTC continued to participate as a member of the Community of Federal Regulators, a partnership of regulatory organizations working together to exchange expertise, collaborate, explore innovative approaches, and support those responsible for regulatory oversight. This forum provides an opportunity for the CRTC to strengthen knowledge and competencies, particularly by sharing ideas and innovative ways that this regulatory community can help maintain and strengthen the health, safety, security, and prosperity of Canadians.

In addition, the CRTC continued to invest resources in the development of new technology solutions in an effort to provide an early warning system and collect data on spoofed telemarketing calls. An example of such technology is voice honeypots, which are used to track unsolicited telecommunications to unassigned phone numbers. During 2015-16, the CRTC collaborated with its partners to grow the honeypots in terms of both membership and telephone number contributions. The data collected from this initiative has advanced the CRTC’s ability to explore a range of technology and policy options for reducing illegitimate telecommunications, including those using caller ID spoofing.

Responding to Non-Compliance

Following intelligence-led case selection and investigations, CRTC officers take enforcement actions to bring entities in violation of the Rules back into compliance. These officers use their discretion in selecting and applying the most appropriate enforcement response for each set of circumstances. Possible enforcement responses include the following:

2015-16 Results

CRTC Enforcement Process

This graphic sets out the steps involved in the CRTC’s enforcement process, from intelligence gathering and investigations, to enforcement responses, to payments or possible appeals through the legal system. Each step in this process may take some months, and the entire process may span several fiscal years.

This graphic shows the steps in the process for enforcement of the UTRs.
Long Description

This graphic sets out the steps involved in the CRTC’s enforcement process

  • intelligence gathering using information sources including complaints, tips from partners agencies, honeypots and other internal and external sources
  • case assessment resulting in an investigation, closure of case or a referral to other law enforcement agency;
  • enforcement responses including warnings, citations, notices of violations issued with AMPs
  • payments or possible appeals through the legal system.

Enforcement Highlights

Settling investigations closed in 2014-15

In response to complaints filed by Canadians, the CRTC conducted investigations into the activities of four companies for presumed violations of the Rules. As part of settlements, these companies paid a total of $92,500 in monetary penalties. The companies were:

The CRTC also imposed a $30,000 AMP on Ontario Eco Energy Inc. for having made unsolicited calls for a client that had not subscribed to the National DNCL or registered with its operator.

The above five NoVs were the last associated with investigations closed in 2014-2015.

Misuse of ADADs

The Rules set out that when an ADAD is used to make unsolicited telecommunications, among other things, each telecommunication must begin with a clear message identifying the person on whose behalf the telecommunication is made and a brief description of the purpose of the telecommunication. This identification message is to include an electronic mail address or postal mailing address, and a local or toll-free telecommunications number at which a representative of the originator of the message can be reached.

In response to complaints by Canadians, the CRTC investigated Metroland Media Group Ltd. (Metroland), one of the largest community newspaper publishers in Ontario, for alleged activities in violation of the Rules. The CRTC concluded that during the period from January 4, 2012 to July 31, 2013, Metroland’s identification message was not compliant because it did not include a local or a toll-free number and a mailing address at the beginning of the telecommunication.

In addition to paying a $240,000 penalty as part of a settlement over its violations of the Rules, Metroland agreed to implement a compliance program to avoid similar violations in the future.

Violations of the Rules in home improvement

Acting on complaints filed by Canadians, the CRTC conducted investigations into the activities of two companies for alleged violations of the Rules. The investigations established that Canadian Choice Home Improvements Inc. (Canadian Choice) was registered but had failed to subscribe to the National DNCL, and that Le Groupe Hydro Hvac Inc. had neither registered nor subscribed to the National DNCL during specific time frames. Both companies contacted consumers who are registered on the National DNCL. In addition, Le Groupe Hydro Hvac Inc. made calls to consumers who had previously requested to put their numbers on the company's internal DNCL.

As part of their settlements, Canadian Choice paid $140,000 in AMPs, and Le Groupe Hydro Hvac Inc. paid $30,000 in AMPs. Le Groupe Hydro Hvac Inc. agreed to review its current compliance program to ensure that similar violations do not reoccur in the future. Canadian Choice decided to cease making telemarketing calls, but agreed to implement a compliance program to avoid similar violations in the future should it begin making such calls again.

Execution of first inspection warrant

The CRTC executed an inspection warrant to enter and inspect a property in Brampton, Ontario, on November 24, 2015, as part of an ongoing investigation of a significant telemarketing operation. This company was alleged to be making unauthorized calls to Canadians for the purpose of selling anti-virus software to individuals whose numbers were registered on the National DNCL.

The inspection warrant, a first of its kind for the CRTC, was granted by an Ontario Justice of the Peace, and carried out with the help of the Peel Regional Police.

Project Semantic

During 2015-16, the CRTC launched a significant investigation following numerous complaints by Canadians registered on the National DNCL who were receiving calls from telemarketers who falsely identified themselves as representatives of Microsoft Inc., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or the Government of Canada.

The investigations uncovered that the telemarketers were attempting to sell anti-virus software to Canadians. During some calls, the telemarketers asked to be given remote access to the homeowner’s computer under the pretext of removing viruses and other malicious software. In addition, the companies made unsolicited telemarketing calls without being registered with the National DNCL operator, and without having purchased a subscription to the list.

At the time of preparing the report, the CRTC was working to close this investigation with the collaboration of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Peel Regional Police, the Forensic Accounting Management Group (Public Works and Government Services Canada), the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation, and local law enforcement in India.

Regulatory Policy and Process

The CRTC administers the Rules and, as such, it must ensure that they respond to advances in technology, business models, and Canadians’ evolving privacy needs. Accordingly, the Commission will, from time to time, engage Canadians in public proceedings to solicit input on potential regulatory or policy changes.

2015-16 Results

In July 2015, the CRTC launched a public consultation to better understand the technical solutions currently offered by telecommunications service providers to help Canadians manage unsolicited and illegitimate calls (i.e. nuisance calls). As part of the process, the CRTC is exploring new and innovative solutions that could enhance consumer protections, including those that may reduce illegitimate caller ID spoofing.

As an initial step in the proceeding, the CRTC requested that the telecommunications industry provide information on the options and features currently available to help Canadians manage unsolicited and illegitimate calls. These responses were compiled into a consumer-friendly format and placed on the CRTC website for consumers to consult on an ongoing basis. 

The information gathered is intended to help

The Commission will set out its findings on available technical solutions that Canadians may leverage to protect themselves from unsolicited and illegitimate telecommunications before the end of 2016. The Commission will issue a separate decision in early 2017 to address the issue of unsolicited and illegitimate telemarketing calls made by callers using the practice of caller ID spoofing.

Canadians’ Participation in the National DNCL

Since the inception of the National DNCL in 2008, Canadians have registered 13,186,585 telecommunications numbers and deregistered 36,906 numbers.

In 2015-16, Canadians in all provinces and territories continued to register their telecommunications numbers on the National DNCL. Specifically, they registered 294,115 numbers for their landlines, mobile phones, and fax machines, an average of over 805 numbers per day. During the same period, 3,267 numbers were deregistered from the National DNCL.

Province/Territory Number of registrations
Alberta 1,448,899
British Columbia 1,605,432
Manitoba 410,934
New Brunswick 251,125
Newfoundland and Labrador 144,289
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island* 388,372
Ontario 5,579,952
Quebec 2,951,449
Saskatchewan 337,206
Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories*^ 13,329
Total 13,131,019
This bar graph shows the same numbers as the table above.

* Data for these locations is not separated since they share one area code.

^ Includes non-geographic area codes, e.g. for mobile satellite phone service in remote areas of Canada where conventional telecommunications infrastructure is not available.

In addition to registering their numbers on the National DNCL, Canadians filed complaints with the National DNCL operator by phone or an online form on the National DNCL website. In 2015-16, Canadians filed 130,209 complaints, an increase of 13% from the year before. The CRTC has observed a spike in complaints following the publication of an enforcement action or alerts to warn the public about fraudulent activities.

Canadian number of registrations type of violaction as of March 31, 2016
Long Description

This pie chart shows the percentages for each types of alleged violations:

  • 67% NDNCL (National Do Not Call List)
  • 7% Abandonned call
  • 14% ADAD (Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device)
  • 2% Curfew
  • 6% IDNCL (Internal National Do Not Call List)
  • 4% Others

In comparison with 2014-15, complaints about

Canadians in all regions made complaints. Notably, a large proportion of complaints, consistent with the total population of Canada, came from Ontario.

Origin of complaints to the National DNCL by province/territory, 2015-16

Alberta 13,516
British Columbia 13,931
Manitoba 4,120
New Brunswick 1,781
Newfoundland and Labrador 590
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island* 2,271
Ontario 61,177
Quebec 29,519
Saskatchewan 2,875
Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories*^ 61
Total 130,209
Complaints by region as of March 31, 2016
Long Description

This pie chart shows the percentage of complaints by Region:

  • Alberta 10%
  • British Columbia 11%
  • Manitoba 3%
  • New Brunswick 1%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 1%
  • Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island 2%*
  • Ontario 47%
  • Quebec 23%
  • Saskatchewan 2%

* Data for these locations is not separated since they share one area code.

^ Includes non-geographic area codes, e.g. for mobile satellite phone service in remote areas of Canada where conventional telecommunications infrastructure is not available.

National DNCL Costs and Expenses for 2015-16

At the outset of 2015-16, the CRTC’s costs to administer the National DNCL regime for the year were estimated to be $3,300,000. The actual costs were $3,049,417.

The revenue target for unsolicited telecommunications fees collected was $3,300,000. The actual amount of unsolicited telecommunications fees collected was $3,677,716 (i.e. an excess of $377,716).

Following a public consultation, the CRTC established a new fee structure for subscriptions to the National DNCL, effective 1 April 2016. The rates charged by the National DNCL operator, as approved by the CRTC, allow for the National DNCL operator to recover administration and operating costs through the sale of subscriptions to telemarketers for access to the National DNCL.

National DNCL Expenditures

$2,065,881 Operating costs of the National DNCL operator
0 Capital expenditures of the National DNCL operator
$3,049,417 CRTC expenditures (operations, management, salaries, benefits, and accommodation)
0 CRTC capital expenditures
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