Canada, Australia Angle to Get into Do-Not-Call Act

Posted by Ronald London

After watching the Federal Trade Commission in America tout the success of the National Do-Not-Call Registry over the past several years, with most recent FTC estimates indicating that over 120 million phone numbers appear on the U.S. list, Australia has joined Canada among countries seeking to emulate the United States’ approach to staunching unwanted phone calls. Presently, the webpage of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) shows the agency to be at the tail end of a public comment period on a proposed national do-not-call list. According to one source, the Canadian list is expected to be operational approximately a year from now. Among other provisions, the proposed rules would impose fines of up to $1,500 for individuals and $15,000 for companies that fail to honor a do-not-call registration. As with the U.S. registry, Canadian law allows exemptions for charities, surveys, and political calls, as well as calls made to a recipient with which the caller has an “established business relationship.”

The Canadian list would seem a natural outgrowth of not only the experience of its neighbor to the south, but also FTC interests in not seeing callers evade U.S. prohibitions by simply migrat❽ing northward. In this regard, the FTC issued a report last year commending to Canada the prospect of a do-not-call registry for that country as well. In addition, the FTC announced over the past few years several enforcement actions arising whole or in part from cross-boarder efforts with Canadian officials, with the most recent coming just a week ago. In that case, the FTC announced that what it identified as “3R Bancorp and a litany of similarly named affiliates” had settled charges relating to alleged operation of “boiler rooms” in the U.S., Canada and India that targeted consumers with poor credit with telemarketing calls that offered purported pre-approval for low-interest, high-limit credit cards upon payment of high up-front fees, followed by non-delivery of the cards. In announcing the settlement, the FTC made a point to mention it received “substantial assistance” from the Toronto Strategic Partnership, a cross-border law enforcement partnership which includes Canada’s Competition Bureau, the Toronto Police’s Fraud Squad, the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, the Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Rackets arm, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Meanwhile, in Australia the Federal Government introduced legislation in Parliament to establish a registry for consumers to list their names and telephone numbers to indicate they do not wish to receive telemarketing calls. Communications Minister Helen Coonan stated that the number of unsolicited calls in Australia has grown in recent years, and has led to increasing concerns about the intrusiveness of telemarketing. Reports indicate the govern❽ment expects 1 million registra❽tions in the first week of operation, and 4 million within the first year. The legislation also will create standards for acceptable calling hours. The registry will be binding on all telemarketers operating within Australia and all overseas telemarketers that represent Australian companies, with penalties for non-compliance that include official warnings and fines, and other financial penalties. A few exemptions will apply for organizations whose work is deemed to be in the public interest, including charities and some social research.