In addition to the private sector privacy laws, there are other types of laws affecting privacy that apply only to certain types of business.

In this section, we address:

  1. Direct marketing, the Do Not Call List and how to stop junk mail;
  2. Credit reporting agencies and your credit report;
  3. Social Insurance Numbers.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is marketing that attempts to send its (usually unsolicited) messages directly to the consumer, for example through telemarketing, direct mail, e-mail, or voicemail marketing.

If you receive marketing materials you do not want, you have several options.  First, you can contact the company and instruct it to remove you from its mailing list. This means you withdraw your consent to use your personal information – your address – for a commercial purpose. Both the Personal Information Protection Act (BC) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act require an organization to carry out such instructions.

Second, you can use the methods outlined below to control how organizations collect, use and disclose your personal information for direct marketing purposes.

The Do Not Call List

The National Do Not Call List (“National DNCL”) is a nationwide registry operated on behalf of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The National DNCL Operator registers people on the list, gives telemarketers up-dates of the list and receives consumer complaints about telemarketing calls. (In December 2007 Bell Canada was awarded a five year contract to operate the Do Not Call Registry).

How Does the Do Not Call List Work?

You can list up to three of your telephone numbers with the National DCNL.  They can be a landline, a cell phone or a fax machine. Your listing is free and lasts for three years. You have to call from the telephone number that you wish to be added to the list; faxes must be sent from the fax number that you wish to list.

To register your phone number on the National DNCL, call the National DNCL service line at 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) or by TTY at 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).

You are responsible for re-registering at the end of the three-year period.    The registration follows the telephone number not the individual`s name, so if you get a new number you have to register that number. The three year period will start to run for that new number when it is registered.

Groups Not Included on the Do Not Call List

Some groups are exempt from the DNCL, so even if you numbers are listed, they are still allowed to call you. These exempt groups are:

  1. registered charities;
  2. nomination contestants, leadership contestant candidates, or candidates of a political party;
  3. opinion polling and survey companies when the call is solely for research and not for selling a product or service;
  4. newspapers when their calls are for the purpose of selling a subscription;
  5. businesses that you’ve had a relationship with within the past 18 months or if you‘ve made an inquiry or applied to them within the past 6 months.

Although these organizations are allowed to call you even if your name is on the National DNCL, they must keep their own “do not call” list, and if you specifically tell the organization to stop calling you, they have to do so.

What If I Don’t Want Calls from the Exempt Groups Either?

If you get an unwelcome telemarketing call from an exempt organization, simply tell the caller to remove you from the organization’s telemarketing list and add you to its “do not call” list. The organization is legally required to follow your instructions.

An independent non-profit organization called IOptOut has created a free database service that will let you create and manage a personal do-not-call list which automatically notifies many organizations simultaneously.

What Happens after You Register on the DNCL?

There is a 31-day grace period to give telemarketers time to receive the new list and update their lists, so you may still receive calls during that period.

After that time, if you get a call from a telemarketer who is not exempt from the DNCL, you can file a complaint at 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) or by TTY at 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889)

You will need the following information to make your complaint:

  1. Your phone or fax number;
  2. The name and or the number of the telemarketer;
  3. The date of the call;
  4. The nature of the complaint; and
  5. A copy of the fax, if a fax was sent.

You have to make your complaint within 14 days of receiving the telemarketing call.

What Happens After You Make a Complaint?

Your complaint will be investigated. The CRTC will hear both sides of the complaint, and if the Commission determines that the caller violated the DNCL rules, it may impose a penalty. Individuals can be fined up to $1,500 and corporations can be fined up to $15,000. If the violation continues over more than one day, each day will be a separate violation.

Do Not Mail/Do Not Contact

The Canadian Marketing Association offers a voluntary Do Not Mail/Do Not Contact service. By registering with the Do Not Contact service of the Canadian Marketing Association you can lower the number of direct mail communications you get. When you register on this Do Not Mail list, your name will be removed from the marketing lists of CMA members for three years. It takes approximately six weeks to take effect, and can stop only mail that is addressed to you. Unaddressed mail and flyers are not stopped.

The Canadian Marketing Association is not a regulator, it is a voluntary trade association made up of members of the marketing industry, so it has no complaint mechanism. If you continue to receive direct marketing mail addressed to you, you may contact the sender and instruct it to stop contacting you. Both the Personal Information Protection Act (BC) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act require an organization to carry out such instructions.

If the organization fails to follow your instructions, you can complain to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, or to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.

Unaddressed mail

If you do not want to receive unaddressed advertising mail, put a note on your mailbox. If you have a group or community mailbox or postal box, put your note on the inside lip of your box, to ensure the letter carrier can see it when the door to the group mailbox is open. The note will block delivery by Canada Post of free samples, coupons, flyers and newspapers, government mailings, free distribution magazines, catalogues, non-profit and event information, and notices of municipal services.

If Canada Post continues to deliver unaddressed advertising, you can complain to Canada Post, which may be able to resolve the complaint. If not, you can complain to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.