Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to begin the House consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.
Bill C-37 would help protect Canadians from unwanted telemarketing phone calls by establishing the legislative framework for the creation of a national do not call list. To achieve this end, the bill would provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, with the powers necessary to establish a more effective regime to protect consumers against unsolicited telemarketing, while at the same time protecting their privacy.
Bill C-37 would enable the CRTC to do three fundamental things. First, it would allow the CRTC to impose administrative monetary penalties similar to fines for non-compliance; second, it would allow the CRTC to establish a third party administrator if it so desires to operate a database; and third, it would give the CRTC the ability to set fees to recover the costs associated with maintaining the do not call registry list.
The costs of maintaining such a list would include database maintenance, complaint processing, and investigation and enforcement costs. The CRTC has recommended that a third party administrator should be selected to maintain the national do not call list.
Bill C-37 would amend the Telecommunications Act to allow for a third party administrator and to allow also for cost recovery. It is expected that costs will be recovered from the telemarketing industry itself. Although the precise cost of running such a list will be dependent on the implementation details that will be determined by the CRTC, proven examples from the United States and the United Kingdom demonstrate this to be a straightforward, easily implementable and cost-effective system.
Bill C-37 seeks to balance the wishes of Canadian consumers for privacy and protection from unwanted calls while, at the same time, recognizing the need for legitimate telemarketing companies to conduct their business in a regulatory framework that enables them to do so.
As such, Bill C-37 contains a number of legislative exemptions, including organizations that would be exempted from the national list for calls. These exemptions include: registered charities, companies with existing business relationships with Canadian consumers, and calls from newspapers and from political parties. These exempt organizations would be required to maintain individual do not call lists.
In addition, survey and polling firms will also be exempt from a do not call list and would continue to be allowed to collect the views of every Canadian.
The other place has recommended two fundamental amendments to Bill C-37. The first is that the annual report which the CRTC would file on the operation of the do not call list be tabled by the minister before each House of Parliament. This amendment simply extends the requirement to table an annual report on the operation of the national do not call list to both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate.
The second amendment would allow flexibility in the dollar amounts imposed for infractions for fines of a do not call list. The amendment recommends that the administrative monetary penalty provision be changed from fixed or set amounts of $1,500 per offence for an individual and $15,000 per offence for a corporation to making these amounts the maximum amounts of the fine per offence.
By passing this bill we would enable the CRTC to do its job and to move forward on this issue. The CRTC would undertake further consultations to address issues such as fees and the selection of an administrative organization for the list. The CRTC expects that it would have a national do not call list up and running 19 months after Bill C-37 becomes law.
Bill C-37 requires that after three years a committee of the House of Commons or the Senate or both would be designated to review the administration and the operation of the national do not call list. This means that there would be parliamentary review of the do not call framework once the list has been operational for a little more than just one year. Parliament would at that time be able to consider the effectiveness of the list.
We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast on this issue. The reality is that the inability to control telemarketing continues to be a pervasive source of frustration.
In 2003, Environics conducted a survey on consumer attitudes toward telemarketing. It concluded that 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction to unsolicited calls. Let me repeat that: 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction. Of those, 38% said they merely tolerate the calls, 35% reported being annoyed by them, and 24% said they simply hated receiving them.
Bill C-37 responds to the concerns of Canadians. They are fed up with unwanted, unsolicited telemarketing calls and they want an effective solution.
I will end my remarks with the following. Canadian consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of a national do not call list for controlling unwanted telephone solicitation. Survey results indicate that 79% of respondents support the creation of a national do not call list. Some two-thirds have indicated that they would likely sign up for the do not call list.
The time has come for an effective approach to regulating unsolicited telemarketing, an approach that would benefit both consumers and the telemarketing sector, and striking, I believe, the appropriate balance. I urge all hon. members of this House to pass this bill, as amended by the Senate, to give individual Canadians an easy way to curtail intrusive telemarketing and to protect their privacy.