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Telephone Do Not Call List gets stop-gap funding

The federal government is throwing a financial lifeline to the national Do Not Call List.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has received assurances that it will receive some short-term funding to continue the program's investigation and enforcement activities for the current fiscal year.

That stop-gap measure, announced internally at the CRTC late last week, gives the telecommunications regulator some much-needed breathing room at a time when its Do Not Call List continues to face a longer-term funding crunch.

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The program, which helps consumers reduce the number of telemarketing calls and faxes they receive, had been due to run out of cash on March 31 – the end of the government's last fiscal year.

Still, the exact amount of interim funding approved for 2012-13 will only be made public when the federal budget's supplementary estimates are tabled in Parliament later this year. The money is expected to be drawn from the government's consolidated revenue fund.

Even so, that provisional cash does not solve the program's longer-term funding challenges.

"We are working with the government and the partners to explore funding solutions to establish an ongoing source of funding," said CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao.

"And we are definitely committed to continue the operation of the DNCL and the vigorous enforcement of telemarketing rules."

During its last quarterly financial report, the CRTC warned that failure to obtain additional funds beyond March 31 would put the continued operation of the program at risk.

"The lack of long-term funding for the DNCL continues to be a challenge for work force stability and staff retention," the CRTC said in its report.

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A key problem is that the Do Not Call List, which was launched in 2008, has always relied on interim measures to fund the program's investigation and enforcement functions on a year-to-year basis. A total of $3-million had been earmarked for 2010-11 and 2011-12, its report said.

Currently, there are more than 10.6 million telephone numbers registered on the list and the CRTC is taking great pains to draw more media attention to its enforcement activities.

This week, it announced that it had taken enforcement action against 85 companies for breaking the telemarketing rules following a five-month investigation.

Out of that total, the CRTC issued citations to 74 companies that had failed to register with the DNCL operator or subscribe to the list. It also issued notices of violation to 11 others for more serious issues, while also levying fines totalling $41,000.

"This investigation marks the latest step in the CRTC's efforts, using a variety of enforcement strategies, to reduce unwanted calls made to Canadians," the regulator said in its release.

"To date, the CRTC's efforts have yielded over $2.1-million in penalties and over $740,000 in payments to post-secondary institutions."

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