One classic method for generating leads in real estate is the good old cold call. Agents who are looking for new clients place calls within their target area in order to gauge interest, find new clients, or collect contact information for future use. This may be done directly by the agent or by a third party who is hired to handle their marketing.
While it can be a good way to find new business, agents should always remember that when you pick up the phone to call someone out of the blue for the purposes of your job, that’s considered telemarketing.
The reason this is crucial to know is that telemarketing is regulated in Canada and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) manages a national Do Not Call List (DCNL) for Canadians. Simply put, people want the right to choose whether or not they receive unsolicited calls and the list provides them with a way to opt-out by adding their phone, mobile, or fax numbers to the registry. The list was created in the late 2010s through an amendment to the telecommunications act and is in effect at the national level.
Let's look at what you need to know about the DNCL as a real estate professional.
How the Do Not Call List works
Once a person has added their number to the national DNCL, telemarketers are forbidden from placing unwanted calls to them. While calls to these numbers by telemarketers are not allowed, they are not strictly blocked either. It is the responsibility of each marketer to maintain an up-to-date list and ensure they don't place calls to anyone on the list.
That includes you as a real estate agent, meaning it’s your responsibility to cross-reference numbers to the list before you make any calls. In order to view the list, you will need to register your business with the CRTC. The rules also require that any party who hires an outside agency to handle their telemarketing must still register their business.
If you are an agent who works for a brokerage that handles telemarketing, you likely don't need to worry about registering yourself as an individual, however, if you handle your own marketing as an agent or work independently as a broker, you should make sure that you are registered with the list to avoid any potential issues.
How to register and how much it costs
Registration can be done online through the Do Not Call List website. There is a subscription fee required to access the list and it will vary depending on the package you purchase. On the lower end, you can pay 50 cents per query to receive 100 numbers at a time in your target area code. To access all numbers in the list is more than $48,000 yearly. To only subscribe to access within a certain area code costs less – around $2,800 a year.
Unfortunately, this makes telemarketing a less affordable option for agents, however, remaining within the law comes with its own financial benefits.
Penalties for placing unsolicited calls can be steep
People who still receive calls after registering to the Do Not Call List are able to submit complaints to the CRTC for investigation. Every year, thousands of such complaints are received. The penalties for making an unsolicited marketing call, if reported, can be steep. The CRTC can impose penalties of up to $1,500 per violation for individuals and up to $15,000 per violation for organizations. A look through the posted history of enforcements on the government website shows some penalties as high as six figures, though most are less than $10,000. Among the organizations facing citations and penalties are numerous real estate brokerages.
Ignoring the rules of the list is not merely a theoretical risk: real estate professionals face penalties all the time for breaking regulations. It is crucial you understand the rules and are registered correctly to avoid paying heavy fines. After all, marketing is supposed to make you money, not cost you money.
Exemptions and loopholes for the Do Not Call List
You might be wondering at this point if there are loopholes that can allow you to avoid observing the Do Not Call List. The answer is kind of. There are certain calls that are exempt under the DNCL rules. First of all, calls to any existing clients or business partners with whom you have an existing business relationship are generally exempt. Also exempt are calls to anyone who has given you permission to contact them such as through a contact form on your website.
Finally, certain organizations are exempt such as charities, political parties, and market research firms. Some marketers will try to disguise a marketing call as a survey to pass under the exemption, but this is not legal and can still result in complaints.
Do your research and protect yourself
Overall, it is in your best interest to observe and comply with all regulations related to the Do Not Call List and not to attempt to circumvent the rules. In order to make sure your marketing efforts are successful and legal, be sure to do your own research into the exact rules and regulations around the Do Not Call List before you begin placing calls.