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Canada Introduces Anti-Spam Legislation, Could Look At Do Not Call

Canadians have been afflicted by the spam scourge and some Canadians have been responsible for the spreading it. In response, the Canadian government is taking steps to crack down on spam by introduction of the Electronic Commerce Protection Act (ECPA) in the House of Commons.

The ECPA, known as Bill C-27, will, it says, deter the most dangerous forms of spam, such as identity theft, phishing and spyware, from occurring there and will help drive spammers out of the country.
Yet the bill also contains provisions that would permit the federal Cabinet to abolish the country’s Do Not Call List (DNCL) without action by the Commons. The DNCL as been criticized by some consumer advocates for being ineffective.

The ECPA would, if passed:
*          Address spam by prohibiting the sending of commercial electronic messages without consent. The regime requires that businesses must have express or implied consent prior to sending commercial e-mail or have a pre-existing business relationship with the persons
*          Prohibit detrimental practices to electronic commerce, protect the integrity of transmission data and prohibit unwanted installation of computer programs
*          Prohibit false and misleading commercial representations online
*          Prohibit the collection of personal information via access to computer systems without consent and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses
*          Provide for a private right of action for businesses and consumers and for third-party liability i.e. follow the money
*          Allow the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Competition Bureau to impose administrative monetary penalties on those who violate the act
*          Allow for international sharing of information and evidence to pursue spammers outside of Canada in countries who enforce similar laws internationally.

That will prevent violators outside of Canada from using Canada as a spam safe haven.

The legislation, if it is approved, would then move to the Senate for its action; the minority federal Conservative government would require support of at least one of the Opposition parties for passage in the Commons. Once passed there, the bill would be presented to the Governor General for Royal Assent, which by convention in the Canadian parliamentary system is a formality.
The new act will be enforced by three organizations: the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The CRTC will investigate and take action, using significant monetary penalties if needed, against spam, altering of Internet addresses, and interfering with computer systems and networks. The Competition Bureau will address misleading and deceptive practices and representations online, including false headers and website content. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will take measures against collecting personal information via computers and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.

The ECPA would allow the CRTC and the Competition Bureau to charge offenders with administrative monetary penalties of up to $1 million for individuals, and $10 million for all other offenders. At the same time Industry Canada will act as a national coordinating body to increase consumer and business awareness and education, to coordinate work with the private sector in support of voluntary guidelines, and to conduct research and intelligence gathering.

 “Our government knows how damaging spam can be to Canadians and Canadian businesses and that is why we are cracking down on Internet fraud and other forms of malicious activities,” says Industry Minister Tony Clement. “With this landmark legislation, our government will help protect consumers from Internet spam and related threats and boost confidence in the electronic marketplace.”

The ECPA has some similarities but is markedly different than the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S, according to a ministry spokesperson. The biggest difference is the opt-in requirement to receive commercial e-mail whereas CAN-SPAM is opt-out. The Canadian legislation allows for lawsuits to be undertaken by individuals or businesses whereas the U.S. private right of action is only for Internet service providers. C-27 also has a greater number of prohibitions to address new and emerging threats to online commerce. These include the prohibitions for false and misleading representations online, and further protections of personal information online.

 “The government studied successful legislative models in other countries and, based on their experiences, has developed a focused plan to address spam and related threats” said a press release announcing the ECPA.

The ECPA has the backing of the Canadian Marketing Association. The CMA has had since 1997 in its Code of Ethics a requirement that its members have the consent of consumers before sending unsolicited commercial e-mail.

“This is important news for legitimate marketers and good news for consumers,” noted CMA’s President and CEO John Gustavson. “Through rigorous enforcement and the backing of the federal government, we will now have a law that will help combat what has been an ongoing problem for legitimate companies that use the Internet to grow their business."

Yet there have been questions raised about ECPA enforcement. And buried in the bill is a provision enabling the federal government to set aside the Do Not Call List (DNCL), which came into effect in September 30.

Though popular with many consumers, consumer advocates such as Michael Geist, who wrote in The Toronto Star last week about a lack of follow-up on DNCL complaints by the CRTC. Bell Canada (News - Alert) administers the list but the CRTC is responsible for enforcement. Out of tens of thousands of complaints, very few he said have been categorized by Bell as DNCL violations, even fewer have led to warnings from the CRTC and to date no firm has been fined by the regulator; it could impose penalties of up to $15,000 per violation for corporations. The firms and organizations that had complaints lodged against them include leading retailers, financial institutions, charities, newspapers, and telcos. 

Geist expressed concern that given the CRTC’s track record with the DNCL, the agency may not be effective at enforcing the ECPA.

“The Electronic Commerce Protection Act would give the CRTC the power to levy fines of up to $10 million for spamming activities, yet the experience with the do-not-call list raises questions about the commission's effectiveness as an enforcement body,’” he wrote.

Geist also said there are plans to review the do-not-call list in a report to minister Clement later this year.

When asked, a ministry spokesperson explained that provision at the end of the Bill section 86 simply allow for the repeal of Do Not Call should the government ever need to do so. For greater certainty, s.86 will remain ‘dormant’ until the government chooses to enact it by order in Council Cabinet decision.

The CRTC has also recently tweaked the DNCL regulations. It lengthened the period of time numbers can stay on the DNCL to five years from three at present; this applies automatically to all those already registered.

In related moves, the agency expanded the political exemption in the DNCL to electoral candidates who are not affiliated with a registered political party. Also, organizations that use auto dialers for non-telemarketing purposes, such as debt collection, must follow the CRTC’s calling hours rules only if calling hour restrictions are not specifically set out in provincial legislation.

“The DNCL is working well to meet the needs of Canadians right now,” said the spokesperson. “Our Government is pleased and encouraged by the interest in the program.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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What Are Related Definitions You Should Know?

Related definitions that you should know as you increase your understanding of predictive dialers include:

Dialer: generic term for any computer-driven device that places outbound calls and connects the answered calls to an agent or operator.

Agent: telephone professional to whom a predictive dialer sends the ready call.

Predictive Dialer: Predictive dialing was introduced for the purpose of increasing efficiency within calling centers. They are computer based system that automatically dial groups of telephone numbers, and then passes live calls to available agents. The SpitFire Enterprise dialer utilizes sophisticated algorithms to speed up and slow down the call rate based on, number of available agents, number of available lines, the campaign’s average call time and other statistical information.

Quick Connect: Quick Connect allows your agents to log in one-to-one with a phone line. This option is great for B2B purposes, especially when your agent needs to be on the phone line through the entire call.

Fixed Dialing: Fixed Dialing gives your call center manager the power to manually set the volume of calls. The software will then automatically dial a predetermined number of lines per agent. Fixed dialing is ideal for political campaigns, charity campaigns, and other situations drop call ratios are not a factor.

Auto dialer: makes thousands of calls screening for busy signals, no answers, fax machines while detecting answering machines/voicemail and delivers pre-recorded messages. SpitFireX Auto Dialer is a low cost solution for voice broadcasting.

How Do Predictive Dialers Work?

Predictive dialers use complex mathematical algorithms that calculate, in real time:

  1. the number of available agents
  2. the number of phone lines available
  3. the probability of reaching a human being at a specific number
  4. the time between calls required for optimum agent efficiency
  5. the length of typical agent/customer or
    debtor conversations
  6. the average length of time agents require to wrap up after a call

SpitFire Enterprise Predictive SEP is a fully blended call center solution that supports unlimited lines, agents, and campaigns. Its greatest strength is in its flexibility: multiple campaigns can be set up, viewed, and changed with the click of a button. With easy options for customization, data and dispositions can be catered to each campaign. In addition to our user-friendly interface, SEPhighlights full customer data and combines multiple campaigns on one screen. All the information your agents need is accessible at a glance, freeing their energy to focus on what matters: the calls.

Keep It Simple with SpitFire Fully Integrated Call Center Software

Our greatest priority is making your call center run smoothly, and we do that by developing software that is intuitive and easily integrated with your current systems. SEP works seamlessly with most CRM applications and long distance carriers, making it the simplest and most cost-effective solution for your call center.

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Benefits of Using a Predictive Dialer

  1. Manages the process of dialing tens of thousands of calls or tens of millions of calls in its lifetime.
  2. Detects the result of the call, as an example: no answer, busy, fax, bad number, answering machine without any presence of human expertise. Consequently saving time by only transferring calls which are voice connects to the agents locally or remotely.
  3. Using predictive dialer increases the productivity of the company by drastically increasing the time agents spend on the phone talking to actual customers or prospective clients.
  4. Predictive dialer users get the ability to organize and better manage the client information, no lost notes scribbled on pieces of paper. The database used by the dialer organizes the calling structure.
  5. The most significant task done by the predictive dialer is to predict, which means always making an effort to get a live call to the available agent with the shortest amount of wait time. This is achieved by self learning algorithms within the predictive dialer to increase or decrease the dial ratio per agent, logged into the system.
  6. Inbound call can be better dealt with by allowing the customers to wait on hold in an IVR system, or a way to leave a message they'd like a callback while the agent is busy talking with other customers.
  7. Most important benefit of a predictive dialer is it reduces expenses for your company over a period of time since you do not need to buy and deploy a complex and sometimes extremely expensive PBX system. Your company will experience return of investment (ROI) in a period of six to twelve months.
  8. A predictive dialing system can effortlessly fit into your companies existing infrastructure since it is software controlled.
  9. The call routing logic and the contact management is all included in one software package. Your call routing logic implemented as per your specifications. Since it is a software package it can easily be upgraded even if you are located remotely with the help of internet.
  10. Provides an added cost effective method of managing the client database by giving the user of the predictive system ability to rework your database on previous call results.

    1. only redial records which were busy, no answers and answering machines
    2. Delete records which are bad numbers, disconnected numbers or operator intercepts
  11. Do a real time look up against the do not call database saving the predictive dialer user from accidentally calling people who have enrolled in the do National not call registry. This saves the company from lawsuits and others risks conforming to all legal statutes and FCC complaints.
  12. Provides progressive dialing capabilities like call blending which means handling inbound and outbound call at the same time.
  13. Provides ability to integrate call recording devices and call monitoring interfaces which helps call center supervisors to train agents and users and improve their customer support skills.
  14. Easy to setup and learn the predictive dialer logic and software tools.

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