Even when the government catches unscrupulous telemarketers calling people whose names are on the do-not-call list, it is apparently powerless to mete out punishment.
The total value of fines levied by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, as of March 1 this year, for those who violated the list was $73,000.
The total amount collected? A grand total of $250.
That revelation is included in information supplied to Percy Downe, a Liberal Senator for Prince Edward Island who made inquiries about the list after getting complaints from people back home.
"I was contacted by two separate seniors quite a while ago in Prince Edward Island who inquired about the do-not-call list and how to get on it," Mr. Downe explained Wednesday in a telephone interview. So he provided information to one of them and actually did the work to get the other listed – something he now regrets.
"Three months later she contacted me back and said, 'I am getting more calls than before.' And I said, 'that can't be right, let me check that.' So when I started to check it and got the run-around from the CRTC I figured, well, I'd better file a very detailed question."
Specifically, the senator wanted to know the number of fines imposed, their value, the number and value of fines paid and the number of corporations that refused to pay.
The response was rather shocking. The CRTC had managed to collect just one partial payment from one company.
"I feel quite badly for the senior I was trying to assist. I actually ended up causing more problems," Mr. Downe said. "The people who had cellphones and never got a call registered and are getting calls."
The CRTC sells the list online and some less reputable telemarketers have been buying it to obtain numbers of potential clients. It's a problem that the commission has known about for a year and a half.
Mr. Downe said the CRTC told him that no telemarketer would be interested in calling people on the list because these are people who do not want to get calls. "Well, most telemarketers, I am sure, are very honest," he said. "But the shady ones are the ones causing all the problems. Of course they are buying it."