CRTC wants public input on automated calls while reviewing telemarketing rules

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is asking consumers and telemarketers for their views on how to reduce unwanted calls and is taking a close look at the rules for automated calls.

The CRTC is also asking for comment on a proposal by the Canadian Marketing Association to relax the rules restricting automatic calls for telemarketing.

The Canadian Marketing Association has proposed eliminating this restriction where an organization already has a business relationship with the party being called and has not made a request to be on the organization’s internal do-not-call list, the CRTC said Wednesday.

“The current rules specify that consumers must provide express consent before calls using ADADs (automatic dialing-announcing devices) can be made to them,” the CRTC said in a news release.

The change proposed by the Canadian Marketing Association would also mean that such calls would be allowed even if consumers have registered their numbers on the national do-not-call list, the CRTC noted.

The CRTC oversees the national do-not-call list, which protects consumers from unwanted sales calls.

For its part, the Canadian Marketing Association calls the current restriction on automatic dialing-announcing devices “unduly broad.” It notes that technology has changed since rules were put in place in 1994, when the devices were capable only of one-way delivery of messages.

“As an example, these features now enable consumers to press a button on their touch-tone pad to immediately connect to a live agent, have the ADAD call returned at another more convenient time, pause or repeat a message,” the association said in a letter to the CRTC dated December 2011.

The call can also be personalized by including specific customer information such as names, the association added.

The Canadian Marketing Association said these automated calls should be allowed for telemarketers who have a business relationship with the person being called because unsolicited automated calls cause “greater inconvenience or nuisance than unsolicited live voice calls.”

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, however, argues against automated calls.

“We’ve done surveys in the past to confirm this, but we know for a fact that people find automated calls to be extremely creepy and invasive,” said John Lawford, the centre’s legal counsel.

“They dislike them intensely, intensely and there is no justification for them.”

Lawford said such calls have only been allowed for doctors, libraries and schools and “other goody good things.”

He said the United States removed restrictions for automated calls for a while, but had so many complaints that rules had to be reinstated.

The CRTC also would like the public to comment on whether telemarketing rules should require, where technologically possible, the caller to be identified on call-display.

“A requirement to display the caller’s, or client’s name could lessen consumer frustration by allowing them to better distinguish calls from telemarketers versus those from other parties,” the CRTC said.

The CRTC said while it would like its rules to be more effective, it also wants to help improve communication between organizations and consumers on these calls.

The regulator also said it will weigh the benefit of any changes against the administrative burden that may result, particularly for small businesses.

The deadline for comments is May 6.