Mark Goldberg

Dealing with rogue telemarketers

Over the past few months, we have been getting a stream of calls that are supposedly from the “Promotions Department” of a major communications services provider.

The deal being offered sounds good, but before I give out information about my household’s assets, I like to have an idea about who I am really speaking with. I just figured that if this was really a call from a major company, the sound quality should be better and they should conform to the Telemarketing Rules, especially the one about “display the originating calling number.” Instead, I kept getting “unknown name / number” and really bad sound quality.

On most of the calls, when I asked for their number so I could call them back, the agent disconnected the call. One time I did get a caller ID – the toll free number actually displayed, but it routed to an auto attendant with no voice mail – another telemarketing rule violation:

For any telephone numbers provided to a consumer, the telephone call shall be answered either by a live operator or a voicemail system to take messages from the consumer. The voicemail must inform consumers that their call will be returned within three (3) business days

I asked colleagues at the service provider to try to help track down this third party agent, however, without identifiers, we knew it would be difficult.

Last week, I decided to play along and make the agent think I was really interested. I recorded the call and got the agent to give me a number so I could call her back after I talk the deal over with my family – she really wanted to call me back. Miraculously, the number she gave matched the toll-free CLID from a week ago. 

These combined to help the service provider track down the third party agent who was behind the torrent of inappropriate calls. They tell me that they have come down hard on this channel – although I don’t know if that means the agency has been terminated or just been put on notice. Either way, the calls have stopped.

Now, I am sure that this agency’s methodology must have been successful enough for them: use cheap VoIP based lines, agents in a boiler room, and if people don’t say “yes” right away, just disconnect and move on to the next number. But I would have thought that doing it the right way could actually be more profitable.

It seems to me that if the caller ID gave the name of the service provider, then their credibility would have gone up instantly and they would have improved their sales. Real companies should be proud of their name and their agents shouldn’t have to rely on sales tactics that feel slimy. It comes down to protecting a brand and image.

I suspect that my approach to dealing with these calls worked faster and ultimately was more effective (measured by speed of effecting change) than going through the official national complaints centre. Later this week, the CRTC will be ruling on the appeal of a DNCL violator, for calls dating back 18 months. There has to be a better way.

1 comment to Dealing with rogue telemarketers

  • Abattoir

    Unfortunately, the DNCL has run out of its temporary funding, and the government is considering just quietly shutting it down. This DNCL has been a case study in how not to affect policy.

    I believe I received calls from the same provider this weekend. I was offered a free cell phone at the beginning of the call, and they were surprisingly ready to hang up when I indicated I was not interested.