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Charities Exempt from Do-Not-Call List, But Subject to Other Telemarketing Requirements

(Aug. 13, 2007) The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC) has exempted charities from a national do-not-call list, but has made them subject to other requirements under its telemarketing rules.

In a July 3 statement (Telecom Decision CRTC 2007-48), the CRTC announced that it would be issuing a request for proposal to solicit bids for operation of the do-not-call list. Once a system is in place, Canadian who prefer not to receive unsolicited calls will be able to add, at no charge, their numbers to the database. Telemarketers will be prohibited from calling individuals who are registered on the list.

Parliament expressly exempted registered charities from the national do-not-call list, and that exemption is included in CRTC's decision.

However, “individual” do-not-call lists must still be respected by a charity. That is, if during a solicitation an individual asks that a charity remove his or her name from their contact list, the charity must comply (AFP members are already obligated to do so under the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice).

Telemarketing Rules Still Apply to Charities

However, the CRTC decided not to extend the exemption to the rest of its telemarketing rules.  In fact, the CRTC stated that "the Telemarketing Rules will continue to apply to all telemarketers and all types of telemarketing telecommunications made to residential and business consumers, including those exempt from the National DNCL [Do-Not-Call List] Rules.

Not only do the CRTC’s telemarketing rules continue to apply to charities, but some of them were added or modified in the CRTC’s ruling. An overview of some of the most critical rules that apply to charitable fundraising, including charities and for-profit telemarkets that work on behalf of charities, are below:

  1. Charities have 31 days from the date of the request to remove an individual from their contact list if the individual directly request the removal during a solicitation or other contact.
  2. Charities and telemarketers do NOT have to provide a unique registration number for each individual who asks to be removed from an “individual” do-not-call list. AFP argued strongly against the unique registration number provision, as it would have created an administrative nightmare for most charities. However, a local or toll-free number so that individuals can verify the removal of their name must be provided.
  3. Charities and their telemarketers are not required to provide a local or toll-free number at the beginning of a call, but only when requested. The number does not have to be manned by a live operator.
  4. Charities and their telemarketers must provide their identification information once they have established they are speaking with the person named on their list. Telemarketers must provide their personal name, the telemarketing firm’s name and the charity for which they are working.

The full text of Telecom Decision CRTC 2007-48 can be found on the CRTC website.

The changes wrought by the decision will not come into effect until the national Do-Not-Call list is established.

AFP Request Denied

As part of its decision, the CRTC expressly denied AFP's request for variance that had been submitted in September 2004, requesting that charities be exempt from the telemarketing rules. According to the commission, “consumers do not consider telemarketing made by or on behalf of charities to cause any less undue inconvenience and nuisance, or to be less of an invasion of privacy, than telemarketing made by or on behalf of for-profit organizations."

“We’re very disappointed in the CRTC’s decision not to exempt charities from its telemarketing rules,” said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “The CRTC failed to acknowledge the precedents set by the do-not-call list, which exempts charities, but also the federal privacy legislation which applies to for-profit activities but not charitable ones, such as fundraising. There is a very real difference between for-profit and charitable activities, and we take strong exception to the idea that the public doesn’t understand the difference.”

Despite the denial for the exemption, Maehara noted that AFP would look forward to working with the CRTC to fashion telemarketing rules that will not impede the charitable sector’s vital philanthropic efforts. “Certainly we support appropriate rules consistent with the standards of ethical fundraising,” she said. “Given our past efforts, I believe we can work well with CRTC, Parliament and others to develop policies that will protect the public and uphold our commitment to ethics while not unduly burdening charities and their altruistic missions.”

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