Do not call me, Telemarketers!

You’re sitting down to dinner and the phone rings. You rush in from the garden to answer what you think is an important long distance call. Your fax machine spouts out unwanted communications. You even resort to screening your phone calls — leaving your family and friends to talk to your answering machine.

Sounds lot a lot of hassle, but what else you can do?

Relief is on the way: In fact, it started September 30, 2008. That’s when the long-awaited Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) National Do Not Call List (DNCL) came into effect.

But how does it work, and what does it mean? Up until now, each company had its own do-not-call list, and the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) had its own service. It seems that no matter how many times you asked to be put on these lists, there are always more companies wanting your attention. Worse yet, it’s impossible to keep track of who you have requested not contact you, and therefore difficult to make a complaint.

However, with the DNCL you simply have to register your phone number in one place — a master list that telemarketers will be required to use. Bell Canada, the DNCL operator, will be responsible for registering phone numbers, and compiling that information to provide telemarketers with up-to-date lists. The DNCL also has a complaints process to make sure companies are following the rules.

How to register

Update January 2009: before you register, take a look at our follow up article Did the Do Not Call List make things worse?

There are two ways to register starting September 30 (or take your name off the list if you change your mind):

– Call 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) or 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889) from any phone number you want to add whether it’s your home, business, cell phone or fax machine number.

– Register online at the National Do Not Call List website. You will be able to register up to three numbers at one time.

What else do you need to know?

– Registration is free. Telemarketers will be footing the bill for operation costs through subscription services.

– Once you register, your number will stay on the list for three years. Keep track of the date you register, because you will be automatically taken off the list if you don’t renew. The DNCL website warns that it won’t be sending out reminders.

– You’ll still need to sign-up for the DNCL even if you are registered on the CMA’s Do Not Contact Service. The CMA’s list will be phased out when the DNCL comes into place. (More information).

– You should contact the DNCL yourself. Beware of anyone contacting you by phone or email and offering to help. In the U.S., there have been scams where con-artists have collected personal information or even a fee for this non-existent “service”.


Wondering what the catch is? Well, not everyone has to play by the new rules. Certain organizations are exempt from using the DNCL, including:

– Registered charities

– Political parties

– Opinion polling or market research firms (when the call doesn’t involve a sale)

– “General-circulation” newspapers who are selling subscriptions

– Companies you deal with and businesses with whom you have a relationship (like your bank, phone company, etc).

– Any organization to whom you have given consent to call you.

According to the CRTC, telemarketers must:

– Identify who they are and, when asked, give you a fax or telephone number where you can speak to someone about the telemarketing call.

– Display the telephone number from which they are calling or that you can call to reach them.

– Call or send faxes between certain hours only: 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekends. In other words, you shouldn’t be receiving calls or faxes overnight.

How can you stop these calls? The “old rules” still apply — these organizations are required to keep their own do-not-call lists. You can ask to be put on that list when they call you, or contact them directly to register.

There’s another potential solution: According to recent news from the CBC, the CRTC has endorsed third-party opt-out sites like In other words, requests made through these sites will have to be honoured. iOptOut, set up by internet law professor Michael Geist, allows people to remove their information from the lists managed by DNCL-exempt companies and organizations. However, critics argue that these websites could pave the way for abuse from criminals and unscrupulous rivals. More investigation into the process is needed. (Read the article here)

How to file a complaint

You’ve signed up… But don’t expect immediate changes. There’s a 31-day “grace period” for telemarketers to get used to the new system. In other words, you’re likely to receive calls until November. Also, how soon you stop experiencing calls will depend on how often the master list is updated and distributed to telemarketers.

If organizations who are not exempt continue to pester you after the 31-days is up, or break any of the other rules set out by the CRTC, you can fight back. Keep a pen and paper handy and write down name of the telemarketer and the phone number (if possible), the date and time of the call and the nature of the complaint. You’ll also be asked to provide your phone number and a copy of the fax received (if fax communication is involved).

To file a complaint, call 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) or 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889). But remember: you have to complain within 14 days of the call. Any organizations who are found to have violated the rules could face a fine — up to $1500 for individuals and up to $15 000 for corporations/

The DNCL also won’t stop telephone fraud. If you suspect the call is a scam, take down the same information and report it to Phonebusters at 1-888-495-8501 (see their website for other contact information). For more information about common scams, see Fight fraud.

U.S. Information

If you live in the U.S. part time or full time you likely already know about the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry. However, there are a couple of important differences to note: The U.S. version is for personal phone numbers only, not business numbers. Your number stays on the list indefinitely, unlike in Canada where you have to watch for the three-year expiration.

(Note: This page was updated September 30, 2008 with new information, links and TTY phone numbers).

Sources: National Do Not Call List (Canada), National No Not Call Registry (U.S.)

Note to readers: We’re keeping tabs on recent developments and will keep you informed — watch for our update in January. We welcome your feedback in the comments section.


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