Canada: Knock, Knock. Who's There? The CRTC

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it has executed an inspection warrant to enter and inspect an unidentified property in Brampton, Ontario, as part of an ongoing investigation of what the Commission has characterized as a significant telemarketing operation.

The company under investigation is alleged to be making unauthorized calls to numbers registered on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) for the purpose of selling anti-virus software.

The announcement is noteworthy for two reasons.  First, this is the first such warrant executed by the CRTC under its authority to regulate telemarketing in Canada.  The warrant was issued by an Ontario Justice of the Peace, and carried out with the help of local police.

Under the Telecommunications Act, pursuant to which the CRTC derives its powers to regulate unsolicited telecommunications, the Commission has broad enforcement and investigation powers, including the authority to enter any place in which they believe on reasonable grounds that there is evidence relevant to verifying compliance of preventing non-compliance with the Act.  However, a warrant is only required where the place sought to be entered is a dwelling-house, so it is assumed that the Brampton location in question was a residence, rather than a place of business.

The announcement is also noteworthy as it relates only to part of an investigation that is still underway, and for which few details were provided.  In fact, the release explicitly indicates that the CRTC does not comment on active investigations, but will publicize the results if it enters into a settlement agreement or issues a notice of violation or citation. 

Accordingly, the sole purpose of the release would seem to be to publicize that the Commission is starting to use some of the more advanced features of its enforcement toolkit.  Indeed, the CRTC's Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer is quoted in the release as saying "We will not hesitate to use all the tools at our disposal, including executing inspection warrants, in carrying out investigations of suspected violations and to enforce the Rules."

Telemarketers are sure to pay attention, and senders of commercial electronic messages should also take note, since Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation grants the CRTC similar investigative powers.

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