Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.
First, I would like to take a few seconds to thank the member for Burlington for her excellent work in the past and for taking up this issue on limiting telemarketing calls.
In 1994, the CRTC introduced regulations restricting unsolicited telemarketing. However, under these regulations, people who do not want to be disturbed by calls from companies that want to sell them something may have to register on hundreds of lists maintained by individual businesses.
This is surely not a workable system. The bill before us creates a better regulatory environment by providing the CRTC with the tools to create one national do not call list. In its telecom decision CRTC 2004-35, the CRTC recommended that it be provided with additional powers to establish a national do not call regime. In the interim it established new rules to govern telemarketing, rules that reinforce the existing regime.
The telemarketing industry itself took exception to the new rules to reinforce the existing regulatory system. The Canadian Marketing Association, the Canadian Bankers Association and three telemarketers asked the government to suspend those interim rules.
I point out that the Canadian Marketing Association has operated a do not call service since 1989. Since 1993 participation has been compulsory for the CMA's 800 corporate members. Even though this voluntary registry tries to address the problem, Canadians continue to be dissatisfied with their ability to control unwanted telemarketing.
The Canadian Marketing Association itself requested that the government introduce legislation to provide a national do not call list. Some players in the telemarketing industry are asking for smarter regulation. The government has made smart regulation a priority, and this bill introduces smart regulation to the call centres of Canada.
Other countries have introduced new regulations to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls. In 2003 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission launched a national do not call registry. Some 62 million Americans subscribed to the registry in the first year alone.
Last January an online survey found that the U.S. do not call registry had been remarkably successful. More than half of all adults said they had signed up and most of those people said they had either received no telemarketing calls since then or far less than before. This survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, estimates that on average those who subscribe to the registry have seen unsolicited calls drop from 30 calls per month to 6.
The operation of the U.S. registry is straightforward. Subscribers register their home telephone numbers, not their names, online or via a toll free telephone number. U.S. sellers and telemarketers are charged fees to access the registry. They have to check it every 90 days and to scrub names on it from their call lists.
For some types of calls, telemarketing firms are not required to respect the registry: calls to current clients, calls for the purpose of administering a survey or poll, and those made on behalf of charitable organizations. Telemarketing companies working on behalf of charitable organizations must, however, keep their own do not call lists.
The costs of the American registry are relatively low. A T & T administered the list in the first year of operation, and the cost was $3.5 million. Costs are recovered from telemarketers and other vendors from registry access charges. In the United States, consumers do not have to pay to be added to the list.
What is the situation elsewhere? In 1999, the United Kingdom passed legislative provisions creating a telephone preference service to protect people for unwanted telephone calls or faxes from telemarketers. They were amended in 2003 to include all telecommunications.
The restrictions the UK has imposed on the telemarketing industry apply to a broad range of activities, including the marketing of goods and services, but also the promotion of the organizational goals and ideals, including those of charitable organizations and political parties seeking donations or support.
The costs of the service are recovered from the direct marketing industry. Again, the consumer pays nothing.
In the end, the implementation of systems in other countries to protect consumers from telemarketing calls has proven a cost-effective means of protecting them from unsolicited telemarketing. The experience elsewhere provides us with examples for a Canadian system. The bill before us provides the CRTC with the tools it needs to establish a do not call list tailored to Canadian requirements. The CRTC will designate an independent administrator for the list.
It will also set up a system of fines. It will consult the industry and consumers in designating organizations to be exempted from the regulations.
The evidence is clear. Almost all parties and the CRTC itself recognize that current rules do not serve the interests of Canadians concerned with nuisance telemarketing. The industry finds that the CRTC's interim rules are unduly onerous and from coast to coast Canadians will applaud our efforts to provide them with relief from nuisance telephone calls.
I urge hon. members to support the bill and to refer it to committee. It is good news for our privacy and good news for Canadians.