Rules for unsolicited telecommunications made on behalf of political entities
This fact sheet summarizes the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules (the Rules) for unsolicited telecommunications made by or for political entities, including riding associations, candidates and their official campaigns.
The Rules include the:
- National Do Not Call List (DNCL) Rules (Part II),
- Telemarketing Rules (Part III), and
- Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) Rules (Part IV)Footnote 1.
Political entities such as political parties, riding associations and candidates are exempt from the National Do Not Call (DNCL) Rules. This means that they can make calls to individuals who are registered on the National DNCL, provided they maintain and respect their internal do not call list and identify themselves and the purpose of the call. However, some rules under the Telemarketing Rules and the Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) still apply to political entities.
- “Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device” or “ADAD” means any automatic equipment capable of storing or producing telecommunications numbers. This equipment may be used alone or with other equipment to send a pre-recorded or synthesized voice message to a phone number. ADAD calls are also known as “robocalls.”
- “Candidate” means a candidate as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act or a candidate whose nomination has been confirmed, for the purposes of a provincial or municipal election, by a political party that is registered under provincial law.
- “Leadership contestant” means a leadership contestant as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act or a contestant for the leadership of a political party that is registered under provincial law.
- “Nomination contestant” means a nomination contestant as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act or a contestant for the nomination by a political party that is registered under provincial law as its candidate in a provincial or municipal election.
- “Solicitation” means the sale or promotion of a product or service, or requests for money or money's worth, directly or indirectly, on behalf of another person or group.
- For the purposes of the requirements set out in Part II, sections 4 and 5, and Part IV, sections 2 and 3, accepted forms of express consent are
- written consent, including a completed application form signed by the consumer giving consent to be contacted by way of telecommunications;
- oral consent, including
- oral consent verified by an independent third party;
- oral consent, where an audio recording of the consent is retained by the telemarketer or client of the telemarketer;
- electronic consent through the use of a toll-free number;
- electronic consent via the Internet; or
- consent through other methods as long as a documented record of consumer consent is created by the consumer or by an independent third party.
- The onus is on the telemarketer and, where applicable, the client of the telemarketer to demonstrate that valid express consent was given by the consumer.
- A consumer may withdraw his or her express consent at any time.
National DNCL exemptions (Part II, section 3)
The National DNCL Rules do not apply in respect of a telecommunication:
- made by or on behalf of a political party that is a registered party as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act or that is registered under provincial law for the purposes of a provincial or municipal election;
- made by or on behalf of a nomination contestant, leadership contestant or candidate of a political party described in paragraph (c) or by or on behalf of the official campaign of such contestant or candidate;
- made by or on behalf of an association of members of a political party described in paragraph (c) for an electoral district;
3.1 In addition to the exemption set out in section 3(d), the National DNCL Rules do not apply to a telemarketing telecommunication made by or on behalf of a candidate as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Canada Elections Act or a candidate under provincial law for the purposes of a provincial or municipal election, or by or on behalf of the official campaign of such a candidate.
Rules for Unsolicited Telecommunications made by or on behalf of political entities
When making unsolicited calls, there are rules regarding unsolicited telecommunications that need to be followed. The rules are covered under the Telemarketing Rules and the Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) Rules. Some of these rules apply to political parties or candidates, or organizations that represent such parties or candidates.
Political entities such as political parties, riding associations and candidates are not subject to the National Do Not Call (DNCL) Rules. This means that they can make calls to individuals who are registered on the National DNCL, provided they maintain and respect their internal do not call list and identify themselves and the purpose of the call.
Please note, the Telemarketing Rules apply whether or not the telemarketing telecommunication is exempt from the National DNCL Rules.
The Telemarketing Rules apply to calls that are made for the purpose of solicitationFootnote 2.
For example, certain rules apply when a political party or candidate, or an organization representing such a party or candidate, calls people to request campaign donations.
However, if a political party, a candidate or an organization representing such a party or candidate calls people to learn about voter preferences or to inform people about the location of polling stations, the rules do not apply.
What are my obligations under the Telemarketing Rules?
- The call must begin with a clear message identifying: (1) the name of the individual making the call, (2) the name of the telemarketer and (3) the name of the political organization on whose behalf the call is made if it is different from the telemarketer’s name.
- Telemarketers must provide a local or toll-free number, when requested, where citizens can access an employee or another representative of the telemarketer to ask questions, offer comments about the call or make a do-not-call request. The name and email or postal address of an employee or another telemarketer representative must be provided, upon request. The contact information must remain valid for a minimum of 60 days.
- The screen on the called-person’s phone must display a number where the telemarketer can be reached unless number display is unavailable for technical reasons. The contact information must remain valid for a minimum of 60 days.
- Every telemarketer or its client must maintain an internal do-not-call list, and refrain from calling anyone who has requested no further calls. Telemarketers must process do-not-call requests immediately. Telemarketers or their clients must update their internal do-not-call lists within 14 days of consumers’ do-not-call requests and keep numbers on the lists for three years.
- Sequential dialing, which involves calling every possible phone number in a telephone exchange drawn from a computer-generated list of numbers, is prohibited.
- Calls must not be made to emergency lines or healthcare facilities.
Calls made by or on behalf of certain political entities such as political parties, candidates or nomination contestants and their official campaigns are not allowed to use ADADs for the purpose of solicitation. The only exception to this rule is if the person being called has expressly agreed to receive that specific political entity’s ADAD solicitation calls.
ADADs can be used to make calls that are not to solicit donations, but certain rules apply to these calls.
What are my obligations under the ADAD Rules?
- ADAD calls must begin with a clear message identifying the person or group on whose behalf the call is being made. The message must also:
- briefly describe the purpose of the call;
- include an email address or a postal mailing address and a local or toll-free number where representatives of the organization sending the message can be reached. The numbers and addresses must be valid for at least 60 days after the call has been made.
- If the ADAD message is longer than 60 seconds, the identification information must be repeated at the end of the call.
- The screen on the called-person’s phone must display the originating calling number or an alternate number where the political organization can be reached, except where number display is unavailable for technical reasons. This contact information must remain valid for 60 days.
- Anyone initiating automated calls must make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the equipment disconnects within 10 seconds after the person receiving the call hangs up
- Calls can only be made from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) unless individual provinces or territories impose more restrictive hours.
- Sequential dialing is prohibited.
- Calls must not be made to emergency lines or healthcare facilities.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
Telephone calls are just one way to reach to out to potential voters. A wide array of technological tools are available to individual candidates and political organizations – some of which are subject to specific rules enforced by the CRTC.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), for instance, may apply to some communications that might be undertaken during an election. CASL has rules regarding commercial electronic messages (CEMs). A CEM is a message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, including, but not limited to offering, advertising or promoting a product, a service or a person.
- SMS text message
- Instant messaging
Political parties and candidates are largely excluded from CASL. CEMs sent by or on behalf of a political party or a person who is a candidate for publicly elected office, are excluded from CASL, if the primary purpose of the CEM is to solicit a financial donation or non-monetary contribution.
If you are sending a CEM to an electronic address, and the primary purpose of the message is not to solicit a contribution/donation, then you need to comply with three requirements. You need to:
- obtain consent;
- provide identification information; and
- provide an unsubscribe mechanism.
Further information on CASL and how it may apply to political parties and candidates can be found at crtc.gc.ca/antispam.
What happens if you violate these obligations?
An important part of the CRTC’s strategy to encourage compliance with the rules is ensuring that political entities such as political parties and candidates have the information they need to understand their obligations. The CRTC’s goal is to promote compliance in the most efficient way possible while preventing violations.
When the rules are broken, the CRTC has a number of tools at its disposal to make sure that the obligations governing communications with Canadians during elections are respected and their rights protected.
Investigators use their discretion in selecting and applying the enforcement response most appropriate to the circumstances at hand.
Possible enforcement responses include:
- A Warning Letter, to bring to the attention of the individual or organization an alleged violation in order for corrective action to be taken;
- A Citation, which identifies alleged violations and sets out the specific corrective action to be taken within a certain time frame. The names of individuals and organizations that receive a Citation are published on the CRTC’s website;
- A Notice of Violation, which is an enforcement measure issued for more serious violations. It may carry with it an administrative monetary penalty. The Notice is published on the CRTC’s website; and,
- A Negotiated Settlement or Undertaking. When an investigation identifies violations and specific actions by a business or individual are required to restore compliance, CRTC staff may contact the affected party to discuss and negotiate a settlement. As part of the agreement, the individual or organization is usually required to admit liability, stop violating the rules and develop a compliance program. Negotiated Settlements in relation to the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules also usually involve the individual or organization accepting the issuance of a Notice of Violation along with an administrative monetary penalty. Negotiated settlements can be an effective option for organizations that have breached the rules, as they save time and reduce costs while achieving compliance.
Monetary penalties vary depending on the nature and scope of the violation. Under the Telecommunications Act, for violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and/or the Voter Contact Registry requirements, the CRTC has the authority to impose:
- Up to $1,500 per violation for individuals
- Up to $15,000 per violation for a corporation
The maximum administrative monetary penalties are significantly higher in the case of a CASL violation. The CRTC has the authority to impose a maximum penalty of $1,000,000 per violation in the case of an individual and $10,000,000 per violation in the case of a corporation or any other person.
For violations under the Voter Contact Registry, the following factors will be taken into consideration when determining the amount of a fine:
- The nature and scope of the violation;
- Any benefit that the person obtained from the commission of the violation;
- The person’s ability to pay the penalty;
- The person’s history of compliance with the requirements of the Voter Contact Registry and any relevant history of compliance with the Rules; and
- Any other relevant factor.
The total amount of the financial penalties can add up quickly. For instance, each day of non-compliance may constitute a separate violation.
Please refer to Compliance and Enforcement Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-109, for further detail.
Find out more
If you are looking for information about how to register with the Voter Contact Registry or how to make sure you comply with the rules, you can find helpful information at: www.crtc.gc.ca/vcr
You can also get information on the other obligations that may apply to political organizations during election periods at:
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