With the Sept. 30 inception of Canada’s National Do Not Call List rapidly approaching, many circulators are bracing for what could potentially be an expensive situation. Here’s what you need to know.
What is it?
Beginning Sept. 30, Canadians can register any phone number, including cell phones and faxes and expect to be free from certain telemarketing calls in 31 days, which is the window of opportunity that the Canadian Radio and Television Commission allows companies to update their calling lists.
Who can I call?
Certain forms of telemarketing are exempt from the list. Calls from registered charities, political parties, opinion polling firms and political candidates are allowed. General circulation newspapers can also call consumers with the purpose of selling a subscription. The same exemption is not extended to magazines.
There is good news for publishers who rely heavily on telemarketing or faxing campaigns to increase or maintain their circulation. The key exemption here involves consumers with which the company has an existing business relationship. Paid subscribers whose subscriptions have lapsed can be called within 18 months of the expiry date.
What about list swaps?
If a magazine wishes to do a list swap with another publication or company, the existing business relationship is not extended to the borrowing company. Whether or not the original company has already checked the calling list against the National DNCL, the borrowing company must still compare them, as they would be the recipients of any fines.
Publications operating on a request circulation model can still call consumers with the intent to sign-up subscribers, since no money or time is being asked of the consumer. “If you are not soliciting (money, donations, goods or time) then it is not considered telemarketing,” explains Nancy Webster Cole, senior manager of telemarketing regulations with the CRTC.
Can I get consent from contacts?
Magazines that receive express consent from their contacts can call with the intent to solicit subscriptions. For example, if during registration for a trade show the registrant indicates on a ballot that they will accept calls for telemarketing purposes and provides a phone number, the company can contact this customer. “Opt-out” verbiage is also acceptable.
If at any time the consumer contacts the magazine and requests that the express consent be withdrawn—whether during a call to the consumer or by contacting the company directly—the calls must immediately stop.
What happens if I violate it?
Complaints taken against a party engaging in telemarketing to consumers whose names are registered with the National DNCL can face fines up to $1,500 for a single violation against an individual and up to $15,000 against a corporation.
According to Cole, the costs can add up quickly. “Those fees are per violation,” she explains. “If the company does not register with the National DNCL, that’s one penalty. If you don’t subscribe, that is another. And if you don’t download the list 31 days from subscription, that’s another strike.”
How much will it cost?
Companies are required to register with the National DNCL whether or not they are exempt from the list. Companies that make “cold-calls” need to subscribe to the list, updating it at least every 31 days.
“Because you need time to download the list and compare it to your own, doing it more often if recommended,” advises Webster Cole. An estimated annual fee of $100 will be applied in order to cover the costs of the as-of-yet unnamed third party complaint investigator. This is in addition to a subscription fee that can be purchased by year, month or individual telephone number. (Information about subscription rates.)
What does it mean for circulators?
Jon Spencer of Abacus Circulation, a consulting group, believes a healthy telemarketing program can still be successful while abiding by the National DNCL.
“Most of my magazines don’t do much cold calling and instead focus on existing business relationships,” he says. “The only problem might be customer perception. Our telemarketing staff will need to be informed as to how to handle people who don’t realize that the National Do Not Call List doesn’t cover every form of telemarketing. There might be some resentment there."