Canada’s Do-Not-Hesitate-To-Call List

My weekly Lawbytes column (freely available hyperlinked version, Toronto Star version) focuses on Bill C-37, which is designed to establish a do-not-call list.  Following its introduction, Bill C-37 was referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology for review.  Months later, the amended bill is virtually unrecognizable, as intense lobbying has transformed the do-not-call list into the do-not-hesitate-to-call list.

Rather than leaving the specific exemptions to an open public consultation, the committee introduced several changes to the bill that dramatically reduces its effectiveness.  These include exceptions for charities, political parties, polling companies, and businesses with existing business relationships. While it may come as little surprise to find politicians protecting their own ability to make unsolicited telemarketing calls, the inclusion of the existing business relationship exception is particularly damaging as it renders the do-not-call list practically useless. 

The existing business relationship provision will allow businesses to contact former customers for up to a year and a half after their last communication or contract (notwithstanding the inclusion of their phone number on the do-not-call list).  Moreover, even a simple inquiry will give businesses a six-month window to ignore the presence of the number on the do-not-call list. 

Supporters of the do-not-hesitate-to-call list argue that the Canadian exceptions mirror those found in the U.S.  Although it is true that the U.S. has created some similar exceptions, the Canadian exceptions go much further than their U.S counterparts.  For instance, the exception period for a mere inquiry is twice as long in Canada as it is in the U.S.

Moreover, supporters of the amended proposal note that telemarketers will be required to maintain company-specific internal do-not-call lists so that Canadians can request no further phone calls on an individual company basis.  They neglect to mention, however, that this merely restates current law, since federal privacy legislation clearly allows anyone to opt-out of further marketing communication.  Experience has shown that company-specific do-not-call lists do not work, since few Canadians can opt-out of all their marketing calls, much less monitor appropriate compliance.

Not only is the new Bill C-37 a disappointing departure from the government' s prior commitment to an effective do-not-call list, the committee hearings were also particularly embarrassing.  While the bill is ostensibly designed to protect consumers, the committee refused to hear from consumer groups.  Instead, with notable exception of government officials and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (whose advice was largely ignored), the committee limited its hearings to a steady stream of marketing and charitable groups.

I conclude by noting that since Bill C-37 has not yet become law, it is not too late to restore an effective do-not-call approach by reversing the committee' s proposed do-not-hesitate-to call list.  The time has come for Canadians to speak out on the issue by delivering a few unsolicited calls of their own to Industry Minister David Emerson and their local Member of Parliament.


  1. Perhaps a more effective alternative would be for people who don’t like receiving calls from telemarketers (such as myself). Would be to get the name of the company / organization who calls and informing the solicitor that you are placing the product / cause they’re representing on your blacklist. If word gets back they are losing people who might have become customers or supporters if approached on a different channel than telemarketing…

  2. Do not call list is fundamentally flawed
    How can exposing someone’s identity possibly lead to more protections from telemarketers? This is just like the ‘unsubscribe’ features in mailbox, ie. total BS. If the list does anything, it will be inviting more telemarketers to harass the sucker who sign on to the list! Modern day communication network is more decentralized, so there is little chance of catching offenders. Even without VOIP, a spammer can just fake its own caller ID[1], effectively avoiding legal consequences for calling numbers in do-not-call list. The do-not-call list is just a telemarketer’s tactic to distract consumer groups! To truly be effective against telemarketer, the bill should instead implement a DO-CALL-LIST that only lists numbers for which the owners want to be contacted by telemarketers, and only the ones permitted by the owner of the phone line can call to.


  3. The Do Not Call List works well here in the US. I receive no calls from any companies except my son’s bank, with whom he has an account. (They can’t seem to understand that normal people work during the day.) When a charity calls, I inform them that I don’t ever contribute to a charity that calls me. It seems to work.

  4. Denis Belisle says:

    Speak-up! or listen to your phone ring.
    I must say I like the title “do-not-hesitate-to-call list”. I call it “The Licence to Call Legislation”! Join before it’s to late.

  5. Unwanted Computer-Generated FAXing from
    Apparently in the past few weeks someone from area 905 has been generating attempts at FAXes to what seems like every number in the US, in particular phone numbers not of FAX machines.

    I was asked by the US phone company to register with the CMA, but was disturbed to discover that their list is not a real do-not-call list. To learn the actual status of the Canadian legislation is even worse.

    To echo a previous comment, YES, the do-not-call list is working in the US. And some of the remedies mentioned below do not even apply to computer generated FAXing. It’s especially tragic to be awakened at 2am by three of these calls in a household with a 22 month old who needs sleep.

  6. Leslie Dubeau says:

    Do not call me
    Hello i was just over at and was disappointed to see it was shut down and just wanted to voice my opinion that its very unfair that the government will not stand up for its community or maybe even the phone companies should have to do the do not call policy i am tired of being woke up every morning because someone wants to sell me stuff that i don’t need or want. and its simple stuff, like long distance calling, i have a long distance restriction on my phone, i think that answers the question on its own. i just want to be left in peace, and i think that someone needs to help us with that before we start geting anrgy and just yelling at these people for doing their jobs. Well thanks for your time.

  7. Mario lortie says:

    \”The Toronto Star journal is truly harassing me in calling twice per Week. I just cannot believe this. It has been going on for Months now. I told them to leave me alone at each time, that I will never be interested. They don\’t get it. Yesterday they called at 21h30 ( what a nice hour to call by the way !), then this morning ( the very next day ), they called at 11h00 am. I hope everyone will cancel their subscription with this newspaper. If they go bankrupt, they will stop harassing and I woudl say …Well you got served ! Since I am an engineer, maybe I could try find a job in US….They seem to be more intelligent with their donot call policy\”.

  8. Martin Shaw says:

    I am receiving endless automated calls from Bell Expressvu over a payment dispute. Rather than sue me (they’d lose), their solution is to create an intrusion into our personal lives. My wife works night shifts and her sleep is being disrupted. Maybe readers with legal expertise can advise us on what other remedies are available (criminal harassment, civil nuisance, injunction, etc.??). A word of advice to new telecom customers; don’t choose Bell – they are more a crime syndicate than a reputable corporation. They charge the maximum interest allowable by law plus penalties which, I would say, is usery. They walk away from contractual agreements except for the provisions that they benefit from. Avoid them at all cost.

  9. Email spam
    Never ever reply to email spam! NEVER!!!

  10. marc kohler says:

    the above comment by ed basset about the 905 area code fax problems,well they are still at it and the best part is they do it to me at 3:00 am.of course the morons at bell canada won\’t do anything to stop them.905-841-7214. i\’m ready for a lawsuit against these they really think i will buy anything from them?

  11. Don Silver says:

    I have been receiving numerous calls and direct mail telling me I have been approved for a gold card or a platinum card.
    I tell those calling if they call again I will charge them with harassment and the mail ones I send back in their prepaid envelope with the note on the outside “Why would I deal with a skuzzy bag outfit like you?”
    On the inside I put take me off your list or this could get worse.

    It seems to work, they have no morals so why should I.

  12. With all the fantastic technology that we have out there, why can’t there be a simple legal requirement that any company doing telemarketing in Canada MUST include an option which allows you to press a button on your telephone which would automatically put your number on a “no call” list for that company if you don’t want further phone calls.

    In other words, if they call and you don’t want any more messages from that particular company, you can press “9” which automatically records your number on their No call list.

    The legal requirement would then be that the company in question has to include this option, and has to respect that option … If a company doesn’t include this option, or persists in calling after you have recorded a No Call message on their system, then it could be charged and fined if there are enough complaints.

    That would allow companies that are legitimate and have legtimate customers to continue making their calls, but it would give peace and quiet to those who don’t want the calls.

  13. none
    New fraud in Canada from telemarker. In the past week, a telemarketer in Canada is breaking the law by changing the call displaying information. they replace their number with the number they are calling. This is illegal and they should be charged. Their number is 1 800 336 1352

  14. C. Private says:

    VOIP is Great! for avoiding the telemarketers and enhancing your privacy. I found a really good independent Canadian supplier (avoid Skype and Vonage) over four months ago and I have yet to receive a single call from any telemarketer, telefundraiser, etc. I don’t have to pay to keep my contact info out of any published database (only to have that same info sold to another customer, thanks Bell), my monthly charge is very low despite my getting all the services Bell and Rogers charge extra for, and now when my phone rings I can answer it with pleasure because I know the person calling is one of the few I have given my number to for a good reason.

    A second secret to keeping your number private? Simply lie and say you don’t have a phone, which I do most of the time. If you don’t want to lie, simply do what I say to my bank every month when I see the teller and she gets a big popup directing her to get my number, “No, I choose not to give you my number.” Since they never, in 15 years, ever used it to provide services to me (leaving me to find out on my own about their banking errors, often in embarrassing situations), I don’t exactly believe them when they say they need it to provide me with “service”. When my neighbour complains about the upmteenth survey the same bank has called her about, I chuckle. Trust me, it’s in no business’ interest to pick up the phone to “give” you anything — only to get more $ from you, and once they have your number, they’ll keep it forever, share it, sell it, outsource it to their “partners”…

    I can’t understand why more people aren’t going the VOIP route for added services, better privacy, and lower costs.

  15. Gazoo Martian says:

    Victim Of Harassment
    One of my daughters took out a credit card and another daughter bought a cell phone, just like anybody else. The cell phone owner cancelled the cell phone after it had expired but now we receiev PROMOTIONAL calls. And also we do from the credit card company. The tactics they are using is that they wait for us to say hello. When they recognize that it is not a female voice on our end, they hang up. This is annoying.

    Today I received a call from 1-800-336-1352. The caller hung up after I said hello. Using the caller Id, I immediately called back the above toll free number and heard that: ‘SMP direct (or SMT Direct)do not call number’. Then the operater says: The mailbox is full!!!

    Can any body tell me if they had experience with this crazy outfit and how you resolved the problem??

    It appears that they may have taken this toll free for consumers to request to be on ‘ do not call list’ but they have filled it up to make it usless.

    Also, could any body tell me where in Ottawa to write about their insanity.

    Any help would be highly appreciated

  16. David Anstey says:

    This all seems one sided to me. In the financial services industry we are expected to maintain “Know Your Client” information which by industry regulation has to be updated at least annually. If I get what most of you are saying, if you have placed yourself on a “Do Not Call” list you expect me not to call you to ask for a meeting to update this information. I’m sure in the back of your mind you are saying we could write…. well let fill you in on something 1) Mail kills trees and is as offensive to some as phone calls; 2) The response rate would be very low (maybe 10%) but I still have to have 100% of my “Know Your Client” documentation updated.

    What about a car dealership who is phoning to notify you that your car has a defect?

    What about a dentist office calling to remind you of an appointment?

    I’m sorry, the real world doesn’t operate like that. There are many valid reasons why a company would need to contact you, so yes the regulations do need some “Don’t hesitate To Call” guidelines.

  17. Privacy?
    A lot of these telemarketers retrieve their information from the white pages in any given phonebook right, it’s the easiest location to start with after all. I’m puzzled as to why phone providers can publically advertise my phone number and address? How come they charge you to have a private / unlisted number in the first place when it costs money for ink, paper, delivery and publishing? Wouldn’t it be far more cost effective for phone companies to give all clientele unlisted numbers and charge to have it printed in the phonebook should the client choose a publically listed number? Where’s the protection of privacy there?

    Telemarketing should be outlawed period. Or as someone here suggested, there should be a national / federal / general “call me” list and telemarketers, surveyors, charities, etc.. should only be allowed through legal means to contact those on the list.

    In my experiences, most recently, none of the following will do anything to resolve such harassing issues, local MP, phone service provider or CRTC. Ironic that they are the ones who state (quite clearly I might add) that privacy is a serious concern for them.

  18. My method of “do not call” is simply “do not answer”. I have call display, so I choose who I answer. It does get annoying, especially getting telemarketer phone calls after 8 pm, when our son goes to bed.

    My question is simple. Why do they persist on calling people. Is there really such a large portion of the population that will actually listen long enough to be sold? What’s wrong with me? Or should I say, what’s wrong with them?

    I can’t stand sales people, even in person, because when I make a purchase, I do my own research, usually well in advance. The only time I need help, is when I can’t find a product I’m looking for, or if I ASK for assistance.

    The irony here is that my brother is a telemarketer for Rogers. He loves his job. Now, I’m not sure if he’s my full brother or he’s the mailman’s child! Just kidding…

  19. Why not have a bit of fun with the telemarketers? Tell them to wait a second so you go get your credit card, then put them on hold until they hang up. If they call back, do the same thing again. It will drive them crazy. After all, they are wasting your precious time, so make them waste their own time…

  20. Those who defend their need to contact clients and support all the exclusions might want to think about how many of us have caller ID and just don’t answer.

  21. Great. It’s being administered by Bell, who as far as I’m concerned are the main culprit of telemarketing harassment. I attempted to get home phone service and Internet connected by them, but they waited two months to tell me that they had unilaterally canceled it. Of course this was after they reduced my wife to tears by accusing her of fraud. And now they constantly harass me and my wife with phone calls offering us service.

    So what I hear is that I’ll never get them off our backs unless I procure a restraining order or a cease and desist against them, because the CRTC no longer gives a damn about any of us.

    How useless.

  22. Surveys
    I recently moved to Quebec and have had to take a job doing surveys (hopefully only temporary) simply to survive. Not being completely fluent in French means my entire work history is meaningless. Well I didn’t expect it to be the most brillant career, but man some people are so brutal. All it takes is a polite no thanks. You don’t have to be vicious…what happened to phone manners? Surveys ARE NOT telemarketing. The irony is that if they were to further legislate this, it might be necessary to take public opinion polls, and yet how many of you would give the surveyor the time of day? Yet you expect instant change. And outlaw telemarketing? Yes, lets just ban people from doing business. I am not and never will be a telemarketer but get real. And the dude who gets calls about a “payment dispute” with Bell…yeah I would be calling you too if you owed me money and so would you!

  23. Presad: If you don’t think being called at any time of the day or night is a problem in and of itself, why don’t you publish your home phone number here? Lots of us would love to survey you about this issue, I’m sure. If you don’t want to take the survey you can always politely decline and hang up.

  24. I have tried being polite with many telemarketers, but when I tell them I am not interested and they persist, often my only choice is to be rude and hang up.

    If you are a telemarketer, that’s great, but when someone says no to you, that generally means NO. Continuing to ask isn’t going to change the answer, and it will guarantee the person you are speaking to is going to become obnoxious and/or hang up on you.

    I have nothing against the profession, but if you would like me to be polite to you, just remember it is a two way street. If I am polite and say no thank you, please thank me for my time and move on to the next call.

  25. Arhidi Malakas says:

    N/ A
    Quite disturbing and alarming to read all the memos above. I have been getting unsolicited calls only for a few months now, always in early mornings and early evenings. All numbers that start with 800, 866,888 are toll free numbers.My caller ID registers the numbers dates and times. To my surprise all do not leave a message,and since I have no dealings with any toll free numbers, I never call back. I erase them from my log. If anyone think of going to CRTC to complain, its a waste of time. There is no law in Canada so far to get on a do not call list. In the USA, there is. Please note, all telemarketing companys have a license to operate under the Provincial Law, they hire people and giving them meager salaries, no matter where they are in Canada. Scams, is another story!
    My advise is to have ID CALLER, Never answer the phone that you don’t know. and hopefully one day they will stop.
    Good luck to all!

  26. Why does Canada Suck??? We get an average of 8 – 10 telemarketing calls and most of them are from the States. They have a law down so they can’t harass there own people but they can harass Canadians. It’s sad to see that we have a government that won’t stand up for the needs of the people. We have friends in the States and the Do not call list down there works nicely, why can’t Canada have a similar law.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I have been having same experience for about three month now. This is about call from Vancouver co, for long distance phone service. Last week I got tired and spend about 42min with the caller and explaining how you are obnoxious, rude and annoying. I am sure I made his life miserable for that 42 min and made him think that this job in telemarketer worth nothing.

  28. stephanie says:

    telus sucks
    i\’ve been on the phone with telus for an hour (either \”talking\” to a robot or a person with a very shaky grasp of English) – she kept saying\”yes, now you are on a do not call list\”… argh… i\’ve had five hang ups (once i answer, nobody even talks – there is always a delay with the automatic diallers) and one ESL telemarketer from MSNBA (offering a credit card, they also send me mail a few times a month and call a few times a week!)
    I have seven little children, one is a newborn, i\’m homeschooling, and i have much better uses for my time. I don\’t want to be rude to the people who are doing this job, but i\’m getting really fed up.
    Glad i found this site to verify that yes, i could hang up on telus\’ \”sold on gold\” without worrying that once again i was giving up on getting customer service after wasting most of my afternoon.
    i have told msnba that i am not interested in ever being their client, and they said they put me on their do not call list, obviously not.
    i love the idea of VOIP… i\’ll look into that next


  29. do not call
    can we get the number of the local m.p. and have our fax set to call them at weird times.
    or tell them it is a survey-it could be personal survey=i.e. do they like broccoli? who says it has to be a business.
    if is is a no no in canada you don’t appear to have to worry.
    The gutless people who attempt to satisfy the big businesses when making the “call these people lists”keep forgetting who they work for, and the contractors don’t worry either- when was the last time someone in Canada ripped off an investor and went to jail? in the states, yes- but in canada- only in Canada- Pity

  30. privacy rights?
    I thought that Canadians had a right to privacy. Apparently only those who can afford to pay for an unlisted number have the right to privacy. It is always the ‘richer’ who have the benefits. I would love to be part of a class action suit against Bell for breach of privacy and return of fees that are required for privacy. If I had lots of money I would unlist my number and get a cell phone. But I don’t. The poor are once again not given equal rights BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT. Where is the justice in that?

  31. do-call-list
    A Do-Call-List makes so much sense. I think my brain expanded a bit when i read that. I love my job as a telephone surveyor. The constant hang-ups are tolerable. The abuse, at times is amusing. I did give my name and phone number to a respondent one time, but he never called! Some of my colleagues use their real name in the course of their duties.

    I’m sure a lot of the people I talk to are suspicious, it is our survey house policy to use *67 for all the calls we make. Rather than hanging up on me, I wish people would just ask for me to call back without the block on. We use this feature so that people don’t call us back because they’re curious about the phone number on their call display. For some projects, the client doesn’t want us to leave messages, for other projects we do. We use software to generate phone numbers randomly, buy lists, or call from a list provided by the client.

    the general public tends to lump surveying and selling over the phone as the same thing. As much as we assure people that their private info will be protected by us and also witheld from the client, I feel that the wording we have to use regarding the Privacy Act is just too stuffy. My boyfriend said to me that it sounds like we’re telling the person that we WILL rip them off, in some way, and do it all in a legal way.

  32. mria/privacy act
    From what I’ve read of the Privacy Act, it seems that all these “locator” numbers that citizens have are private or considered personal. So, as I understand it, the parts I’ve read, it seems as if it’s up to the Canadian government to decide how phone numbers, other numbers, are handled, shared, stored, retrieved, on and on, as well as how the groups that use these numbers for their work and whatever names are associated with the numbers.

    All companies should be legally obligated to follow specific procedures regarding how they record the identifying codes for these “cases”, how they record extra information gleaned during the initial phone contact. These groups or companies or whatever they call themselves should divulge any information breaches or losses especially the most basic one, that of the dumpster being broken into.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I think it is hypocritical of you to go running to the government when you don’t want some unwanted phone calls but you criticize recording artists when they want their intellectual property protected. Your name and number are out there in the public domain, and even if they aren’t, someone made some money selling your information to someone else; a lot like the P2P problem.

    Of course everything makes a difference when it is “you”. I am sure a lot of these posters above and below rail at the thought that the government would try to stop their free downloading while whining to the government to stop the phone calls.


  34. no reply
    A while back I sent an email to an MRIA person. I simply asked if it is okay for a Survey House to instruct its workers to lie to the person doing a survey. No answer, but what I’ve concluded is that the concept of ethical behaviour includes being honest.

    Who or what is the industry that regulates the practices of market research companies in Canada, other than CMA? One of my bosses was surprised to find out (when I told her) that the “I” in MRIA stands for intelligence, not “Industry”.

  35. BashBrannigan says:

    some help
    I’ve worked doing telephone surveys and phone solicitation for charities and I’ve also been annoyed by the telemarketers so I know very well both sides of the fence. For what it’s worth this is what I’ve learned. First, most of the problems we experience with telephone solicitation is from sales-oriented telemarketers. Survey companies work with very low profit margins as do reputable charities, but telemarketing is VERY profitable and therefore there are far more of them. If telemarketing was banned, there wouldn’t be enough phone calls for surveys and charities to bother you. Having said that, I’ve worked for good and bad survey/charities. The good one’s respect when they call and try not to call back when you say no. But I’ve worked for…and quit… the bad one’s who’ll keep calling back no matter what. I worked for one company I considered complaining about to the Canadian Marketing Association, but I chose not to and just left. They would simply call you back no matter what you said. Personally, I believe telemarketing should be illegal…period. Forget the do not call list. If we wish to allow charities and survey companies that’s fine, but they need to be monitored more seriously.
    Finally, some advice about dealing with them. What NOT to do: Don’t play games with the telemarketers: like putting them on hold, or trying to waste their time, or insulting them, etc. Honestly, they don’t care. Don’t waste time talking to supervisors or complaining. What you SHOULD do: 1. Find out what company they represent. Then CALL THAT COMPANY DIRECTLY!!! Companies HATE hearing complaints AND telemarketing companies hate getting complaints from their clients!! They’ll remove you from the list if their client tells them to. 2. Give up the land line and get a cell. Telemarketers get your number from the phone directory. 3. NEVER…NEVER… give your phone number to ANY company. If they ask for it, refuse and take your business elsewhere. 4. Consider not having any phone at all. VOIP on a computer will give you outbound calls and your friends can reach you by IM or email.
    Hope this helps!

  36. VoIP is most efficient in blocking unwan
    In my opinion the most effective way to make your home line unavailable to unwanted calls is to switch to VoIP, but not any of large providers like Vonage. They usually offer ‘blacklist’ feature, so you can block abusers.

    [ link ]

  37. This is an appalling piece of legislation and does virtually nothing to protect Canadians. To add insult to injury, we had to wait three years for this and now on the day of launch, the online registration for the list doesn’t work. A total waste of time and money. It is time that our elected representatives put voters first, instead of third behind themselves and institutional political donors. Wake up Canadians! We can do better than this – use your vote!

    [ link ]

  38. Dites simplement non merci
    Vous n’avez qu’à dire poliment que vous n’êtes pas intéressé et raccrocher le téléphone. Vous pouvez aussi lui raconter tout vos problèmes et le télémarketer au bout de la ligne va chercher un moyen de raccrocher ;o)

  39. tell the telemarketer your problems
    You could start chating with the telemarketer about your problems and how you are depressive and so on….beleive me he will hang up after a while ;o)

  40. Survey people: there’s a reason people group you guys and telemarketers together – it’s a group of “annoying strangers who call us about stuff we don’t care about”! Seriously, whether or not something is being sold is not really relevant if the “customer” isn’t going to buy either way. There needs to be an optional system similar to how Instant Messaging works, i.e. you can choose to individually approve callers so that no one can call you unless you have previously allowed it – with technology, not human choice. If you’re not on my “friend list”, then you physically cannot connect to my phone, period.