Nearly seven years after the launch of the National Do Not Call List, Canada's federal telecommunications regulator has made a public call for ideas to combat so-called caller ID "spoofing," a technical trick that facilitates many of the unwanted calls still bombarding households.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission began a public consultation on Tuesday, looking for "new and innovative solutions" to block unsolicited telemarketing calls and scams.
In particular, the CRTC is hunting for answers to systems that use caller ID spoofing and display false telephone numbers, in some cases appropriating legitimate numbers that belong to businesses or households. Spoofing circumvents the Do Not Call List and helps offending callers avoid being punished with fines.
Since the Do Not Call List was launched in the fall of 2008, 12.8 million phone numbers have been added. Canadians have lodged 900,000 complaints of alleged breaches of the rules since then, an estimated 40 per cent of which involved spoofing.
Scams and illegal telemarketing remain a major source of frustration to telephone customers across the country. The CRTC has levied more than $6.2-million in fines and issued more than 190 warning letters.
But it has also conducted more than 1,500 investigations and it noted that it is hard work catching offenders. In March, the CRTC revealed it had fined nine Greater Toronto Area companies telemarketing duct cleaning and home services a total of $149,000, but it said the investigation was "lengthy and labour-intensive."
"Canadians are very frustrated with telemarketers who hide their identity or misappropriate the legitimate numbers of Canadians and businesses," Jean-Pierre Blais, the CRTC's chairman, said in a statement.
"Following this consultation, we will be publishing guidance material to empower Canadians to make informed choices for themselves and their families."
The CRTC is asking the telecommunications industry to provide a summary of current options and features to block such calls by Sept. 4. The public consultation is open to comments until Oct. 16.