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What are robocalls and are they legal?

Robocalls function like regular telemarketing calls except that there is a pre-recorded message at the end of the line instead of a person trying to sell a consumer something.

There are no anti-robocall laws in Canada but they are subject to CRTC regulations. if the robocalls fail to follow these regulations, the organization or person that is making the calls could face penalties, such as fines.

The CRTC regulates telemarketers and robocalls are included in the telemarketing description, which includes making calls or sending faxes to sell or promote a product or service, or to request donations. Regular telemarketers are exempt where they have an existing commercial relationship with consumers.

The rules the CRTC sets out for robocalls are:

  • Calls are to begin with a clear message identifying the person on whose behalf the call is made, including a mailing address and a local or toll-free number at which a representative of the originator of the message can be reached; and
  • Calls are to display the originating number or an alternate number where the originator of the call can be reached.

Robocall election scandal of 2011

In 2011, during the federal election, thousands of Canadians received robocalls giving Canadians the wrong information in regards to polling stations.

The federal court concluded that fraud was likely a factor in the robocalls people were receiving and that the Conservative Party database was likely to blame. However, there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the election results.

What do I do if I receive a robocall?

You can just hang up if you don’t want to be bothered. You can also register on the National Do Not Call List that is also regulated by the CRTC.

All telemarketers must register with the DNCL. Consumers who don’t want to be called by telemarketers should add their numbers to the list. Telemarketers have a 31-day grace period to update their lists and erase the new numbers on the DNCL list.

Please note though that certain telemarketers are exempt from the DNCL list, which include registered charities, newspapers, political parties, as well as organizations that conduct market research, polls and surveys.

If you are not on the DNCL list but you don’t want to deal with a telemarketer just tell them to stop calling your number. Notate the date and time and with whom you spoke from what organization. If you are still getting called by the same organization, you can file a complaint with the CRTC or your local business bureau.

If you are on the DNCL and you are still getting called you can make a consumer complaint with the CRTC and your local business bureau.

If you think the telemarketing calls are of a fraudulent nature, you should also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Read more:

Telemarketing and Unwanted Calls

Rules for unsolicited telecommunications made on behalf of political entities