How to file a complaint against annoying telemarketers

by Marlene Eisner

Each time the phone now rings it feels like a thief is breaking into your home. Sure enough, you check the call display and recognize the number as a telemarketer who keeps pestering you – despite your best efforts to get them to stop. When it gets to this point and nothing works, it’s time to file an official complaint. But how? [Image credit: iStock.com/elenaleonova]

How to file a complaint against annoying telemarketers

How’d they get your number anyway?

If you don’t recall giving out your phone number to a telemarketing company, chances are you probably didn’t. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website, telemarketers can get it without your consent or knowledge in a few ways:

  • From companies that are in the business of generating lists of numbers
  • From contest forms or applications that you fill out
  • By selecting random numbers to call
  • From companies that you deal with

Does having caller ID help screen calls?

The point of caller ID is to allow us to identify who is calling and if we wish to speak to that person. However, some sly telemarketers will mask or falsify the caller ID by using a practice called “spoofing”, a strong indication the call may not be legitimate.

  • A spoofed number can appear as a string of digits (e.g., 000-000-0000 or 123-456-7890), a random number, another company or someone’s actual number
  • Telephone fraud, called vishing, is very much like computer fraud, referred to as "phishing" or "brand spoofing" according to the RCMP, in that callers deliberately misrepresent who they are to trick people into keying in information such their account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), or passwords using the telephone keypad. The fraudster can also ask the victims to confirm some personal information like home address and place of work.

If you receive a telemarketing call you believe has a spoofed caller ID, or keep getting unwanted calls, by law you're entitled to file a complaint. Where should you begin?

How to kick-start the complaint process

There are four key steps involved should you wish to file a formal complaint to the CRTC against an aggressive  telemarketer who won't take “no” for an answer.

1. Register your number with the DNCL

Before filing a complaint, you must first register your number with the National Do Not Call List (DNCL). Although this will reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive on your residential, wireless, cell, fax or VoIP telephone, it will not eliminate them completely. Why? Some are exempt from the DNCL rules including telemarketing calls made by, or on behalf of:

  • Canadian registered charities
  • Political parties, riding associations and candidates
  • Newspapers of general circulation for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions

2. Answer your phone

If your number is registered with the National DNCL and telemarketers continue to harass you, you should still pick up even if you know the caller is a telemarketer. The reason? To gather information that the CRTC could potentially use against people or companies that don't comply with the DNCL guidelines.

3. Collect details of your conversation with the telemarketer

Before filing a complaint with the CRTC, you’ll need the following information:

  • The telephone number that received the telemarketing call
  • The telephone number and name of the telemarketer that appeared on the caller ID screen or that the person on the phone gave you
  • The date of the call
  • The exact time of the call as it appeared on the caller ID screen
  • Whether your complaint relates to a fax, residential, or business number
  • Any other information you have that relates to the call

4. Report the incident as soon as possible

After you have this information, you can file a complaint in one of several ways:

  • Online through the National DNCL website.
  • By phone (toll-free) at 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625).
  • If you are calling from a TTY device at 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).

The sooner you report the incident, the better. Generally, the details will be fresher in your mind and the trail for investigators will still be warm.

  • To formally file a complaint about fraudulent calls or a spoofing incident, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

What happens next?

The National DNCL operator collects all consumer complaints, conducts an initial assessment of each one, then hands them over to the CRTC. The CRTC then determines whether a complaint warrants further investigation and may:

  • Ask for additional details from the consumer
  • Require more information, on-site visits and/or interviews with the telemarketer
  • Request information from third parties, e.g., telecommunications service providers

The potential outcome

If the CRTC determines a telemarketer has violated a DNCL rule, it can take measures to bring telemarketers into compliance, including issuing a citation requiring the telemarketer to take immediate corrective action.

  •  In some cases, if they do not comply, they may be fined $1,500 for an individual and $15,000 for a corporation.

Although many companies use telemarketing as an honest means to market their products or services, most people find the practice to be intrusive and annoying. So the next time the phone rings and it’s a telemarketer, it’s good to know you can do something to put an end to the calls.

Since unscrupulous telemarketers are everywhere, why not share this article with friends and family so they’ll also know how to stop unwanted calls.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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