The Canadian National Do Not Call List: A Farce

Like many Canadians, when the National Do Not Call List was implemented, I went and registered my two home phone numbers, my one fax number, and both cell phone numbers in my family. I think I saw a drop in the number of telemarketers calling me, but it’s hard to say. This morning I as informed, by my mother of all people (I’m usually the one informing her of things like this), that this list isn’t quite what it appears to be. I’ll quote from the Wikipedia entry:

“In November 2008, it was reported that the CRTC had received thousands of complaints from Canadians about the implementation of the Do Not Call List. People reported that they had actually experienced a notable increase in the number of calls since registering for the list, and were starting to get calls at cellular phone numbers that had never received telemarketing calls before. In January 2009, numerous media and consumer advocacy organizations reported that anyone can use false information pretending to be a telemarketer and download the list for a $50 fee. It only took their reporter ten minutes to do so. The list is likely being downloaded and used as a telemarketing list overseas, where there’s little that can be done as the CRTC has no jurisdiction outside of Canada. On February 2, 2009, A Toronto Star headline labelled the CRTC’s do-not-call list a “disaster”, and the article recommended Parliament return to the original version of Bill C-37 by eliminating all exemptions. It further recommended cross-border cooperation to resolve jurisdictional issues and immediate tough enforcement to send a strong signal to violators.”

I had assumed there was some sort of “blind protocol” set in place here where the telemarketers would be required to do a database comparison with the Do Not Call List database, and numbers on that list would be purged from the telemarketers database. That’s the only system that would make any sense – yet it seems the system the government implemented was to bundle up all our phone numbers, hand it to the telemarketers, and say “Hey, don’t call these people, m’kay?”. Talk about naive! These telemarketers can then take that list of phone numbers and sell it on the international markets, or even pass it to their US branches to use as a calling list. Worst of all, they’ll get access to phone numbers that have never been put into the hands of telemarketers, such as cell phone numbers. What a mess.