News

iOptOut: My Response to the Do-Not-Call Disappointment

Regular readers of my work will know that I have been frustrated by Canada's do-not-call list, which contains far too many exceptions and has taken an embarrassingly long time to become operational.  In response, today I am launching iOptOut, a website that will allow Canadians to opt-out of further phone calls (and emails) from dozens of organizations with a single click. 

I began to develop the site soon after the do-not-call bill became law.  The premise is simple – under the law, exempted organizations (which include charities, political parties, polling companies, newspapers, and companies with a prior business relationship) are permitted to make unsolicited telephone calls despite the inclusion of a number in the do-not-call registry. However, organizations must remove numbers from their lists if specifically requested to do so.

IOptOut takes advantage of this approach by allowing Canadians to create and manage a personal do-not-call list that begins where do-not-call legislation ends.  Registrants are able to view a categorized list of organizations where they can opt-out of further contact.  To do this, the site sends an email notification to each organization requesting that registrants' name, email address and phone number(s) be removed from their active marketing lists.  The site includes a full FAQ, a blog on the latest do-not-call developments, and wiki that allows users to identify new organizations to include in the iOptOut database.  Users have the choice of keeping their personal data on file to update their opt-outs as new organizations are added or to delete it completely within 24 hours.  More details at the site, which is a work-in-progress, so suggestions are welcome.

66 Comments

  1. Fantastic idea! Thank you so very much – this is brilliant!

    I regularly get calls from several of these companies, even though I always ask to be removed from their list. Now we will see how responsive they are to a request to remove my name from their lists.

  2. Thank you for your efforts. This will facilitate the process enourmously.

  3. Thanks! This is awesome! If I had a phone, I’d be all over it πŸ˜‰

  4. Ill try it out..

  5. Thanks Michael, this is great.

    So, when are you going to run for public office…?

  6. Excellent site! I’m glad such a beast exists, and you even implemented the feature I would have asked for if it hadn’t existed: the ability to opt out automatically when new companies are added to the database.

    I’ve added my local newspaper to the wiki, and have a feature request. It wouldn’t be difficult to hook the authentication systems for the wiki up to that of the main ioptout.ca site. I’ve done it on a mediawiki installation that I run, and would be happy to share the approach (and the plugin code I modified). I’ve emailed admin@ioptout.ca with this suggestion so that it can be followed up on.

  7. Charity worker says:

    Directories need to be added
    Its nice to see. Good job

    What is missing though are the directories that these organizations buy every year to maintain and update their call lists.

    Two of these directories (I only know two of them) are the “Veron Directory” and “Select Phone”.

    I see no privacy or other statement for removal of your name from the select phone product in front of me.

    In the Vernon Directory I have, the only way to have your name removed is by a letter requesting so. They say they will refuse Email and other forms of cummunication.

    These Directories are the biggest source of all the calls. This is what these companies/charities buy.

  8. Bylo Selhi says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  9. Possible loophole
    This is great, and I’ll be telling lots of people about it. Maybe too, it’s worth registering people (a neighbour for instance) who don’t use the internet regularly. Just get them to keep a little list and then enter it for them.

    On another note, unfortunately there may be a problem with this Do-Not-Call list. I get a lot of calls from out of the country, USA specifically. These are currently the most anoying because they’re rude and absolutely won’t give up. They just call again the next day. I wonder if there is going to be any unilateral agrements with other countries. Also, VoIP companies will give you a NewYork or Amsterdam telephone number, whatever you want. I’m wondering if a company could perhaps just use a foreign telephone number even if they are calling from Canada. To be safe, they could also hire a foreign firm to do the calling, or even set up an office across the border. Could this be a loophole? I hope not.

  10. Privacy Guy
    Thank-you Michael! Brilliant!

    Further to the question above, asking when you’ll run for public office…don’t! Politicians are actively prevented from achieving useful results. Sadly, it’s up to the rest of us to effect change.

    However, I’ll nominate you for a Nobel Peace Prize! My evenings will certainly be more peaceful πŸ˜‰

    Patrick

  11. Richard
    Brilliant Michael, I nominate you for the Order of Canada! Someone who deserves it for doing something rationale for all Canadians.

    It is just too bad for you that the Globe & Mail gave out the web site address as [ link ] instead of .ca!

    Now I am going to go through the rest of your web site and see what other great treasures you have for us.

  12. Great idea, but I agree with the Possible Loophole as many of my junk calls are from the US and most of them are prerecorded. If you do speak to someone and ask for their phone number they hang up.

  13. Gordon in Edmonton
    Fabulous. I always ask that my name/number be taken off the list, but it doesn’t happen. How successful wil this venture be? I’m still optimistic, though. Also, will this have an opposite effect and just CONFIRM to the telelmarketers that your number is active and valid, and they can sell it to others?

  14. Bylo Selhi says:

    Re “Banking, Finance and Insurance” category, does checking off e.g. “TD Canada Trust” apply only to TD Bank Financial Group’s retail banking operations? If so then there needs to be subcategories for their affiliates’, e.g. credit card (VISA), brokerage (Waterhouse), insurance (Meloche Monnex), etc. operations. The same sort of thing applies to the other financial institutions.

  15. John Lange says:

    The Globe & Mail has a story on this here: [ link ]

    Unfortunately they list the site as being iOptOut.com.

  16. Great idea … thanks.

    Is the toll free number to register for the call list actually available yet???

    If so what is it?

    KC

  17. John Wunderlich says:

    Thanks Michael!

  18. I receive several unsolicited calls per day. Some originate from Canada but many US organizations are calling me also. And many of those are autodiallers with pre-recorded messages.

    These organizations are pests and I fear the non-Canadian organizations won’t stop calling any time soon.

    VoIP and off-shore call centres (either staffed or pre-recorded) provide the cheap raw materials required for this problem to just keep getting worse.

  19. Get yourself a cheap voice modem for your computer and install the free software “Phonetray”. As you get telemarketing calls, you simply add them to the zap list with a mouse click. They will get a prerecorded message of your choosing, including some with the SIT tones with the announcement that the line has been disconnected etc. I hardly ever get a telemarketing call anymore. You do have to subscribe to callerid for this to work.

  20. I ahve been using a call blocker software from identafone.com and have my own black list. They only fool me once then they are on the list.

  21. Terrible dumb idea
    As much I have respect for fighting spam, your idea is completely flawed. Since when does exposing personal information reduce spam anyway? In fact, it will lead to even more spam, especially telemarketers have disguised IP addresses and phone numbers to successfully avoid prosecution anyway.

  22. This point has been brought up already, but I get many calls from the U.S. telemarketers too. Most have to do with travel package scams. I\’ve specifically told them now to put me on their DNC list, but they\’re still calling.

    I went to the U.S. DNC website, but of course, when I enter my numbers to register, it tells me that my phone numbers are invalid. It\’s frustrating because these people who call from the U.S. are repulsive and rude people.

  23. For telemarketers who disguise themselves, the obvious solution is to make the telephone company itself liable. It’s their network, and if they allow abusers to use it, they should share the blame, after all, they make profit from the telemarketers’ use of the phone.

    Personally, I’d like it that telephone service providers should provide a number to call to register that the last imcomming call on that line was marketing to be blocked, and another number to use for callers who do dead air or computer speaking.

    There should be a complete ban on both dead air and recorded messages. That’s pure abuse of the phone system. And there’s got to be a way for phone providers to track down and kick off rogue telemarketers.

  24. Patrick
    Great work, your already in Ottawa no? Please move into politics, I’ll vote for you!

  25. Ed Montgomery
    I gave up having a phone. If some organization wants to contact me, they can provide a phone.
    I only use email for all communication (which is completely at my convenience, like the phone used to be, before Ottawa politicians allowed this telemarketing abuse to grow out of control). The deadbeat politicians we have in Ottawa, scurlous scum that they are, in the backpockets of business, while ignoring the taxpaying voters, should have telemarketing phones glued to their ears to get the message across to them, since they are braindead. I applaud your attempt to remedy this scourge, but DNC lists don’t seem to be very effective. I hope yours will prove different. What are needed are politicians who will pass (and enforce) laws that punish telemarketers who abuse the phone system, abuse voters, etc. What is really needed is a “call list” or opt-in list, (rather than this opt-out list we have now) the opposite of what we have now, because the abusers continue to abuse with impunity.

  26. Fabulous
    This is fabulous, awesome. If I had your phone number I’d call you to say thanks! Oh, I also have a deal on a newspaper subscription that you might find interesting…

  27. International incident
    I see that others are also getting unstopable prerecorded calls from USA. If these don’t stop, could we have a trade agreement problem? I don’t know much about these things but it seems to me that Canada would have a WTO greivance in that case. I think that the USA needs to bring it’s policies into line with this or face sanctions. Forgive my naivety, but does anybody have any ideas about this?

  28. Anonymous Coward says:

    Can you add a certificate to the DNC site so that we may log in and give our personal information in a secure fashion through https.

  29. This is fabulous, Michael – a great use of technology, including the wiki features. Maybe it won\’t prevent all possible abuse from all sources, but it will significantly reduce spam calls. Thank you. We will see how the CRTC enforces the rules against the companies that ignore these special requests – which I presume the system preserves in a way that allows us to prove that we opted out. But the bad publicity for the scofflaws will already be some help for some of them.

  30. Can you please extend your site to support phone numbers in the USA? Given that both Canada and USA are both part of NANPA, this shouldn’t be too hard to do. Thanks!

  31. ron dorland says:

    if i had your number i’d call you personally to thank you….this will have to do!

  32. To you folks who complain you get calls from the USA… They aren’t even USA calls. They are more often than not from foreign countries, using spoofed caller ID data to make it look like an american #. Your only bet there is to answer the call, listen to the message briefly and then hang-up. Otherwise the automated dialer will keep calling.

  33. /.
    Great idea.
    This story made slashdot:
    [ link ]

  34. James MacFarlane says:

    I have Rogers high speed internet, and no TV. I would get call monthly from them asking if I wanted to upgrade to digital cable. I would explain that I don’t watch TV. They’d call back the next month again. I finally told them that if they called me one more time, I’d cancel my service completely.

    Because I have “an existing business relationship” with them, there’s no reason for them to stop calling me, except my threat of canning them all together. Fortunately they were smart enough to listen.

  35. Ken in London says:

    Thank you for this FREE site. I hope it works. There are so many other organizations and companies which could and hopefully will be added. I receive as many as 15 calls per day (and evening)
    Even if it stops half of these it will be a huge help to restoring my sanity. I have tried not answering the phone after Dinner time but I then miss important calls from friends and family.
    THANKS

  36. Consultant
    I am very encouraged to see leadership on the privacy of personal information and do-not-call list. Another question I have about companies that do not comply with the do-not-call list:

    Can I charge them a fee for calling me? For example, if a verbal agreement is legally binding, and I ask the non-compliant telemarketer over the phone to pay me a flat fee of $150.00 for using my time.

    I regulary invoice my clients for providing advice over the phone, so I’d like to invoice non-compliant telemarketers as well, since they are using my time for a commercial purpose.

    Thanks.

  37. Title
    I just received another spam fax yesterday. It’s another health plan offer with ridiculously low pricing. The response is an 800 number that my brother actually tried calling last year when another one was faxed to us, but he didn’t handle the questioning too well, and it turned into an interrogation as my brother tried to get the name/number of the company advertising the health service (by calling the number they take YOUR personal info and someone will call you back, he smartly didn’t want to give his personal info). There’s a number at the bottom of the fax for opting out, this number is another 800 number that shows up as scams on google, so I never called it. The biggest problem is that the faxes from this spammer come early in the morning on a shared phone/fax line, with several people in my house including me being disabled and with a lot of medical correspondence being sent back and forth including via fax. So when the spam faxes come in, it’s a painful comedy of disabled people attempting to get out of bed and to the fax machine in time just in case the fax machine fails to receive the fax in which case my parents are wondering and worrying for weeks afterward if they missed an important medical fax (lab result, medical records transfer, doctor to specialist/specialist to doctor referral form, etc.)

    This same spammer sends offers for toner, computers, other health plans and a few other scam offers over the last few years. It’s the same spammer because the opt-out 800 number is always the same. And the spammer is the guy that if you sue him in your state, he sues you in superior court in his state across the country and you have to hire a lawyer and answer, and going to superior court is very expensive.

    The obvious solution is to find out which number is sending the faxes, but the spammer could be using a large number of sending fax numbers, so that’s one problem. The other problem is that the spammer doesn’t register a number in the sending fax machine/computer, so no number shows up on the fax display while receiving, and no number is listed on the fax.

    What needs to be done (and Canadians may have an easier shot at this the first time around) is to force the telephone companies through legislation to enable two features similar to the *69 call trace, where if you get abusive calls, when the caller hangs up you dial *69 and the caller’s number is registered at the phone company headquarters, and with a police subpoena the local police can follow up to get the caller’s number for further enforcement action. The way it should work for both spam faxes and businesses disregarding opt out call lists is that the phone company will establish two more * numbers, say *90, *91, or whatever two digit combo isn’t taken, so that one number can be used for spam faxes and the other can be used for illegal telemarketing calls. When a spam fax comes in, after, you dial *90, and the previous caller’s number is registered at phone company headquarters along with the precise time of the call. At the same time, you hear a computer generated voice that informs you of the precise time of the call so you can write it down. Afterward, you can file a complaint with your state’s attorney general (or Canada’s province equivalent), including the precise time and date of call and the AG can follow up with the phone company to obtain the spammer’s/telemarketer’s number. With a large number of complaints all pointing to one number, one of the volunteers working in the AG’s office can start collecting info on the offender and the AG can build a case against the most egregious offenders. Or pass the info on to federal authorities if it is international in scope.

    And most importantly for this to work, you can’t let the phone company charge for use of the service like they charge for *69 tracing. If they take telemarketing money, they should be required to participate in fraud prevention at no cost to the telephone customers.

  38. This is a great public service. Thanks for having the guts to do it yourself.

    Once this is up and running I’d love to see iOptOut extended to provide a do-not-mail service, including admail. We could feed that list to Canada Post, and to companies that deliver direct like YellowPages.ca.

    I blogged you here: [ link ].

  39. We Must Defend Our Privacy
    Thank you for this, Michael.

    The scales fell from my eyes when my father passed away. He was a generous man, and gave to many charities. I tried to stem the constant flood of paper and phone calls, but was ignored by the charities, who seemed to re-double their hounding efforts. Of course, it is often hired commercial companies who, for a part of the money you are donating, will keep you and the charity at arm’s length. When we allow “registered charities” to come into our privacy circle, we are actually permitting their hungry agents to do so.

    Our family enjoys our life together, and we do not want constant interruptions from organization who want our resources for their causes or their companies. It is criminal for our country to permit these attacks on family privacy. We should be able to stop a stranger from entering our homes, no? Either physically or through the sounding of alarm bells on our telephones or burning our resources on computers or fax machines. For our representatives to bow to pressure or influence, one way or another, from commercial (and I include charity) enterprises is like allowing citizens to be invaded, and it reduces any credibility I have left that they should be entrusted with my interests. Is their any doubt where cynicism about government comes from? It comes from our inability to trust our representatives to protect the common interest in favour of minority, but richer, factions.

  40. Ron in Oakville says:

    tele-barrage
    I caught wind of your commendable efforts to strengthen DNC legislation via a Globe & Mail report.
    On Saturday April 12th our land-line received 11 telemarketer calls from 10:25am until about 5:20pm. Two calls were within two minutes of each other.
    Of the eleven calls, eight were from a couple of big, tenacious offenders: five and three calls respectively. All calls were listed as out-of-area and had 416/Toronto area codes.
    Hopefully the DNC list will enable us to block out-of-area calls by number alone.

  41. Bill Everet says:

    Stop Computer Calls
    This link shows how to easily and immediately stop computer generated calls. It works, and it’s free.
    [ link ]

  42. Guelph
    Do not click on the link provided by “Bill Everet” : it’s spam!

  43. A Way to stop US telemarketers from calling me in Canada?
    Does anyone know a way to stop US telemarketers from calling me here in Canada? When I told them I would file a complaint with the do-not-call registry, they had a rehearsed answer indicating that “they aren’t subject to Canadian law since they are in the US”. I am sure they are right but there must be a way around this! Suggestions? PS – I don’t have caller id so any solution that requires that is out for me.

  44. Not worth it
    Yes the service only stops Canadian telemarkers but the rest of the world seems to get these phone numbers. I now get 10-12 calls a day now from telemarketers, but before I registered I got 1 a week. It is a good idea but only makes things worse.

  45. Richard L says:

    As evidence that Canada has failed to implement an effective do-not-call program, I had a Toronto-area duct cleaning company not only laugh at me when I mentioned being on the do-not-call list, he said that I couldn’t trace him anyway. He was so confident of this, he called back when I hung up. And Bell Canada’s response to such calls is no better – the front of the phone book says little more than you shouldn’t make such calls.

  46. I think your web site is down
    Is your web site down?

  47. how to stop them for real
    Tell them you want to buy wtf ever they are selling and give them a fake name, address, CC and wtf ever they want, they really love you insides you know.

  48. I've had up to here, Ralph says:

    Rip them new one
    With regard to marketing calls from the US. I have been inundated with calls for lower credit card interest rates, and the expired warranty on the vehicle scam. Tried to subscribe to US do not call list also, but it is not available outside the US. However lodge an online complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission. It may take a little time, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the response.

  49. Goodplan! Hopefully it will be up and running soon?

  50. iOptOut.ca ?
    It’s August now. Your site still hasn’t re-launched:
    http://ioptout.ca/

  51. Please relauch the site!
    The site still hasn’t been relaunched!

  52. Make them pay
    The only way something like this would work is if the telemarketer would be made to pay the person called, for each violation, no exceptions. This is how it should work:

    1. Enter your info on this list.
    2. Telemarketer calls you the 1st time, you find out the company calling and give them a warning that you’re on this list.
    3. Same telemarketer calls you a 2nd time, write down date, time & company info, so you can enter it on this list.

    With this, not only would the caller be paid, but owner of this list could also be paid (to maintain list). Lets say $50 for 1st violation after the warning, then doubling at each violation after ($100, $200, $400, etc). I think telemarketers would think twice before calling a second time!

  53. THANK YOU FOR MY PEACE OF MIND
    Michael, I’d like to buy you a beer, I have to thank you for the almost immediate reduction in interruptions in my house.
    thank you for doing this
    steve
    ottawa

  54. Unable to Use Long Distance Provider with cell phone Since Sign Up
    Hi Michael

    I had signed up my entire family (including mobile phones) when you first launched ioptout.ca, Unfortunately, a side effect of this enrollment, we’ve been unable to use long distance providers where we need to call into their numbers with our mobile phones.

    We waited for the ioptout.ca site to become active in Nov 2010, then I just saw that the site has been delayed to Feb 2011.
    I’m hoping you can help us out in removing our numbers from the do not call list. I’ve emailed you just now. Hope you can help.

    Best Regards
    Eric

  55. Roll Out Delay
    When will the new features be activated? When will the new system start?

  56. stephen, ottawa says:

    finally some peace
    THANK YOU !!!!!
    it is April 2011 and I am on the list – we get a few calls but nothing like the 4-5 interruptions a night we were getting a few years ago.
    THANK YOU !!!! you gave me back my evenings
    Steve

  57. your page is still down.
    Any idea when you’ll have your page up and running? I opted out back in 2008, but it seems to have expired. Help. I work at home and these calls are driving me nuts!

  58. It’s August, when will iOptout be operating?
    I’ve been at my computer everday registering my complaint to the CRTC of the phone numbers that have been calling me. Aside from the one or two repeat offenders, I get more charities calling me with their instant messages. They want donations. I already donate to my choice of charities and dislike having Big Brothers or the Diabetes Ass. calling me several times every month. When will your site be up and running?

    Thanks.

  59. Jim in Whitby says:

    Perhaps to update the web site?
    Hi Michael, I’m sure the last thing you want or need is constant nagging about when ioptout.ca will be back up. However, if you could update the site periodically to indicate that work towards that end is continuing, it would probably give a warm fuzzy feeling to your loyal subscribers (like me) who are patiently waiting but are concerned by the message that the site will return in June 2011 (now that it’s October….lol )
    Thanks and keep up the great work !!!

  60. Ian Patterson says:

    consultant
    This is peripheral to the CRTC DNC list. It pertains to a Do Not Fax list which I am on. But recently I received a fax from a Canadian company T-Zone selling sweatshirts. They advised listing my number with http://www.nationaldonotfaxlist.org. Their web page is quite impressive but doing a whois shows a registrant in Plantation, Florida. I did not register my number since, if they are no legitimate this simply confirms my fax.

    I comment for the interest of others (and, perhaps, for Michael to check out).

    I have been on ioptout virtually since it was available. Hope the revised site is up soon.

    Regards

  61. “…has taken an embarrassingly long time to become operational”
    So, iOptOut.ca has been down for, what, 10 months? It seems to be taking an embarrasingly long time for this website to become operational.

  62. jim in te toko says:

    it is now Feb 2012 and the site is still not up.
    Lets be transparent and clear!
    If it is never going to come back, just tell us – we will not be upset.
    Then we can go on to other ways to opt out.

  63. I Have been here several times……it is time for your site to go back up!!! We need the service to keep the idiots from wasting our precious family dinner time! Get the site going…..it is a worthwhile thing.

  64. Come on you guys….let’s get the show on the road! Atleast disable the site if you’re out of business please.

  65. Hughena Morrison says:

    What is happening? Supposedle the new site was to be up and running in January of 2012 and here it is June and no word on what is happening! We need this service but if it no go then let us all know and take your sites down.

  66. When will the ioptout.ca site be back online?
    There have been many delays….should we take this to mean that the site is DOA?