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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled Monday that it will not ban so-called junk voice mail because it has not been enough of a nuisance or inconvenience.

The decision is a huge victory for companies such as Toronto-based Infolink Technologies Ltd. which faced a possible ban on its "Voicecasting" system. Using that system, Infolink sends thousands of advertising messages directly to voice mail boxes without ringing telephones.

Bell Canada had been trying to stop Infolink and the others for three years arguing that it annoyed customers of its Call Answer service. But Monday the CRTC rejected those arguments and said Infolink's service is not intrusive.

"Infolink is pleased with the current

CRTC decision regarding Voicecasting," said Cesar Correia, Infolink's president and chief executive officer. "This decision confirms my beliefs and what I have been saying since 1997."

David Elder, a lawyer at Bell Canada who handles regulatory issues, said the phone company is "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

"However, I think we will be looking at other ways that we can ensure that our customers are protected, which could include requesting that the commission allow us to impose new restrictions on these types of [automated dialling]providers," he said. Those restrictions could include compelling companies like Infolink to maintain "do-not-call lists".

"The problem with [Monday's]decision is that it leaves us with a large gap that we think needs to be addressed. Because, as it stands now, this Voicecasting technology is not subject to any restrictions whatsoever," Mr. Elder said. "It's not even subject to the type of restrictions that apply to old-fashioned live voice telemarketing."

The issue surfaced in 2001 when Bell tried to cut off phone service to Infolink arguing that it had violated Bell's tariff policies and CRTC rules governing the use of automated dialling devices for sales pitches. Bell also said it had received numerous complaints about these messages from subscribers to Call Answer.

Infolink complained to the CRTC and said its service was not intrusive and not covered by the commission's rules about telemarketing because it was "ringless."

In its ruling, the CRTC agreed with Infolink. The commission said it prohibited live, automated telemarketing in 1994 after a flood of consumer complaints. However, the commission said there has not been a similar outcry over junk voice mails.

It quoted Bell's own figures and said "the total number of complaints pertaining to voice mail issues, which includes Voicecasting, is low, the number of voice mail complaints relative to all annoyance complaints is low and the number of complaints is not increasing on a month-to-month basis." It said Voicecasting does not interrupt subscribers activities in real time with a ringing telephone.