04/02/2013 01:16 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Debt consolidation firms to pay $80K for improper robocalls

The CRTC has imposed penalties totalling $80,000 against two debt consolidation companies that broke telemarketing rules by bombarding Canadians with robocalls in an attempt to drum up business.

Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance will pay $69,000 and Quick Connect Solutions will pay $11,000 as part of a settlement that they violated telemarketing rules that prohibit the use of automated dialing devices, or robocalls, to promote their services without obtaining prior consent from consumers.

Both companies operate from the same corporate address in Brampton, Ont.

"We will continue to work with telemarketers to ensure they are obeying the rules at all times," said Andrea Rosen, the CRTC's chief compliance officer, in a statement.

"Canadians are encouraged to file a detailed complaint each time they receive an unwanted telemarketing call," she said.

As part of the settlement, both firms have also agreed to:

- Immediately cease making robocalls to promote or sell services and products without obtaining the recipient's express consent.

- Publish a corrective notice on Ontario Consumer Credit Assistance's website.

- Review their compliance programs and appoint a compliance officer to ensure ongoing adherence with the CRTC's telemarketing rules.

- Implement training and education programs for staff.

- Provide an annual report to the CRTC for the next five years, which must document consumer complaints and the steps taken to resolve them.

Last month, the Canadian Marketing Association proposed that the rules governing robocalls for telemarketing be relaxed.

The association has proposed eliminating the no-robocall restriction where an organization already has a business relationship with the party being called and has not made a request to be on the organization's internal do-not-call list.

The CRTC says the proposed change would also mean that such calls would be allowed even if consumers have registered their numbers on the national do-not-call list.

The do-not-call list, which was launched in 2008, allows Canadians to register their phone numbers so they can be protected from receiving unwanted and unsolicited telemarketing calls. More than 11 million numbers are currently registered.

But thousands of Canadians who have registered their numbers with the do-not-call list complain that they continue to receive unwanted calls in violation of existing rules.

CBC's Marketplace program earlier this year went undercover to a call centre in Pakistan that targets Canadians with unwanted calls in violation of current rules. The CRTC said it could not act against this telemarketer because, like other offshore telemarketers, it used a technical trick called “spoofing,” which fools caller IDs into displaying a different number than the one actually calling.

The CRTC said its enforcement of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules has generated more than $3.2 million in penalties.