Changes to telemarketing and research calls standard | ACMA

Changes to telemarketing and research calls standard

Marketing headset on computer keyboard

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is consulting on the remaking of the Telemarketing and Research Industry Standard 2007. Proposed changes are discussed in a paper released today.
The Industry Standard provides certain community safeguards in relation to telemarketing and research calls, specifically:

  • the hours and days when calls can be made
  • information which must be provided during a call
  • when calls must be terminated
  • the use of calling line identification.

As required under Part 4 of Chapter 3 of the Legislative Act 2003, the Industry Standard is ‘sunsetting’ and must be remade before it would otherwise lapse on 1 April 2017.

The proposed changes include providing greater clarity to assist consumers – like requiring that the name of the calling company be provided at the start of the call – and removing requirements on industry that have been identified as realising little or no consumer benefit.

‘The standard provides some important and long-standing community safeguards in relation to telemarketing and research industry calls,’ said acting ACMA Chairman Richard Bean. 'The ACMA welcomes views from interested parties in relation to the continued application of these safeguards and the proposed changes.’

There has been recent public debate about parties exempt from the obligations contained in the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (DNCR Act), including about telemarketing by registered charities. Under legislative provisions, the Industry Standard is restricted to the specific areas noted above and does not provide an opportunity to contemplate broader issues. The ACMA will refer any submissions made about other important issues to the Department of Communications and the Arts.

Submissions to the consultation paper can be made here.

Media release 39/2016 - 7 November

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au

Backgrounder

The ACMA administers the Do Not Call Register under the DNCR Act that provides for Australians to register their personal fixed line and mobile telephone numbers for the purpose of opting out of receiving telemarketing calls.

Some entities are exempt from the DNCR Act’s obligations. For example, registered charities and political parties and candidates may still make telemarketing calls to numbers on the register.

However, all telemarketers, including the entities exempt under the DNCR Act, must adhere to the community safeguard obligations under the Telemarketing and Research Industry Standard 2007 (the Industry Standard).

The Industry Standard places specific obligations on industry and provides consumers with the minimum levels of conduct that they can expect from all telemarketers, including in relation to permitted calling times and when a call must be terminated.

This means that even if a particular entity, such as a charitable organisation, is exempt from the requirements of the DNCR Act and therefore able to call numbers listed on the register, it must still meet the requirements contained in the Industry Standard.

Different rules can apply depending upon whether a call is a research call or a telemarketing call.

In general:

  • a call is a research call if one of its purposes is to conduct opinion polling or standard questionnaire-based research
  • a call is a telemarketing call if one of its purposes is to offer to supply, or to advertise or promote, goods or services, or an interest in land, or a business or investment opportunity, or to advertise or promote a supplier of any of the above, or to solicit donations.

Current obligations under the Industry Standard

Calling times

Telemarketers and researchers are not able to call people during the times set out below, unless the consumer has consented to being called at that time.

Table 1: Times when calls are not to be made

Research calls Telemarketing calls
Weekdays Before 9.00 am or after 8.30 pm Before 9.00 am or after 8.00 pm
Saturday Before 9.00 am or after 5.00 pm Before 9.00 am or after 5.00 pm
Sunday Before 9.00 am or after 5.00 pm Calls prohibited
National Public Holidays Calls prohibited Calls prohibited

Provision of information during a call

Callers need to provide people with certain information when they call. The timing for when they need to provide the information differs, depending on whether it is a research call or other telemarketing call.
The information that must be provided, and when it must be provided under the current standard can be found here.

Terminating a call

A caller must terminate a call, or ensure that a call is terminated, immediately if:

  • they are made aware that the person they are calling is not at their usual residential address, the time at the person’s current location is outside of the permitted calling times, and the called person does not specifically state that they would like the call to be continued
  • the person they are calling asks for the call to be terminated or otherwise indicates they do not wish to have the call continue.

Enabling calling line identification

A caller must ensure that calling line identification is enabled at the time they make or attempt to make a call, or cause a call to be made.

Why is the Industry Standard being remade?

Legislative instruments generally ‘sunset’ (that is, they are automatically repealed) on 1 April or 1 October that first occurs 10 years after they are registered. This is an automatic process that applies to most legislative instruments regardless of the particular content.

The Industry Standard is due to sunset on 1 April 2017. Public consultation on the proposed changes is required to ensure the instrument is remade before this date.

Section 125A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Telecommunications Act) requires the ACMA to ensure that there is an Industry Standard in place at all times while the DNCR Act is in force. The ACMA is therefore required to remake the instrument prior to the date it is due to sunset.

Scope of the Industry Standard

The consumer safeguards to be provided under the Industry Standard are limited to those specified under section 125A of Telecommunications Act as outlined above.
While the ACMA will accept submissions that also cover broader issues relevant to the operation of the Do Not Call Register within this consultation process, they will not form part of the considerations for remaking the Industry Standard.

Such submissions may, however, inform the ACMA’s administration of the DNCR Act and/or, where they concern matters relevant to the broader policy frameworks, be brought to the attention of the Department of Communications and the Arts.

Complaints and enforcement

Consumers with their numbers on the DNCR may complain to the ACMA if they believe they have received telemarketing calls that are not from exempt entities and if they have not provided consent or have withdrawn consent prior to receiving a call.

Consumers may also complain to the ACMA about breaches of the obligations under the standard, including when calls have been made outside of the permitted calling hours.

Complaints may be made here.

If an ACMA investigation finds a person has breached the Do Not Call Register rules, it has several enforcement options available to it, including:

  • issuing a formal warning
  • accepting an enforceable undertaking aimed at ensuring future compliance – which is enforceable in the Federal Court
  • issuing an Infringement notice
  • applying to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for a pecuniary penalty order.

Last updated: 07 November 2016