6 August 2009
Neighbourhood Energy penalised for calls made to numbers on the Do Not Call Register
Neighbourhood Energy Pty Ltd (Neighbourhood Energy) has paid a penalty of $22,000 after the Australian Communications and Media Authority conducted an investigation that found one of the company’s outsourced Australian call centres made telemarketing calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register (the register).
The ACMA has also issued a formal warning to Neighbourhood Energy after finding that it failed to include an express provision in its contracts with its call centres requiring compliance with the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the Act). This is the first time that the ACMA has taken action against a company for a contravention of this particular part of the Act, and follows the ACMA’s targeting of particular industry sectors, including the retail energy sector.
‘If you decide to outsource your telemarketing, you should take steps to protect your business by ensuring robust contractual provisions are in place, and through maintaining adequate control and oversight of the outsourced operations,’ said Chris Chapman, Chairman of the ACMA.
Mr Chapman noted that Neighbourhood Energy has paid the penalty in settlement of the alleged breaches, and has amended all its existing contracts to ensure compliance with the Act.
‘Neighbourhood Energy has fully co-operated with the investigation and has dedicated significant resources to ensure future compliance with the legislation,’ he said. ‘This is a positive outcome that I hope other business sectors reliant on call centres take on board.’
As Neighbourhood Energy has paid the penalty and taken steps to address the issues identified, the ACMA’s investigation of the matter is now closed. The ACMA is pleased to note that there have not been any further complaints about telemarketing calls to numbers on the register made by Neighbourhood Energy since the completion of the investigation.
The ACMA has recently launched the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 Compliance Guide (the Compliance Guide), to assist the telemarketing industry in achieving best practice compliance with the Act. Businesses who have engaged, or are considering engaging, call centres to market products or services should review the Compliance Guide, which is available on the ACMA’s www.donotcall.gov.au website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7980.
Under the Act individuals can list their Australian fixed line or mobile telephone numbers on the Register, provided those numbers are used primarily for private or domestic purposes (for example, calls to family and friends). Registration means that individuals have opted out of receiving a wide range of unsolicited telemarketing calls. Registrations are valid for three years, and can be re-registered or removed from the Register at any time. To date, more than 3.5 million phone numbers have been registered. 1.5 million of these phone numbers were registered in the first months of the Register’s operation and will be due for renewal in early to mid 2010.
It is unlawful, in the absence of consent, for any telemarketer in Australia or overseas to make a non-exempt telemarketing call to a number listed on the Register. The ACMA is responsible for overseeing the Register’s operation and for investigating breaches of the Do Not Call Register legislation, including the Act and the Telecommunications (Do Not Call Register) (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2007 (Industry Standard).
Anniversary means renewal
May 2010 marks the third anniversary of the launch of the Do Not Call Register. From this time, registrations will begin to expire. This is because numbers can only be listed on the register for three years and are then automatically removed if the registration is not renewed. Registrations can be renewed at any time simply by visiting www.donotcall.gov.au or by calling 1300 792 958.
From May 2008 to May 2009 the ACMA received 12,057 complaints; this represents a 60 per cent drop from the May 2007 to May 2008 figure of 30,060 complaints. The majority of these complaints raised potential breaches of the Act and/or the Industry Standard. To make a complaint, visit www.donotcall.gov.au or call 1300 792 958.
Compliance with the Act and the Industry Standard
The ACMA’s general approach to enforcing compliance with the Act is to seek to resolve a matter, where appropriate, without resorting to formal procedures. Where complaints are received, the ACMA generally issues an advisory letter to the relevant business, providing it with an opportunity to review its compliance processes and address the apparent issues. The ACMA has also undertaken an extensive education campaign about the Do Not Call Register legislation during the past two years.
Where an informal approach to enforcement has not been effective in addressing the apparent compliance issues of the business concerned, the ACMA undertakes a formal investigation into the matter. There are a number of enforcement options available to the ACMA, which include:
- issuing a formal warning;
- accepting enforceable undertakings;
- giving an infringement notice, which specifies a financial penalty; or
- commencing proceedings in the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.
The Compliance Guide
The Compliance Guide is a compilation of practical measures telemarketers can take to comply with the Act. The development of the Compliance Guide has involved consultation with a broad cross-section of the telemarketing industry, including telemarketers and call centres of varying sizes. The Compliance Guide has also drawn on knowledge gained from investigations that the ACMA has conducted.
The Compliance Guide is not intended as a statement of things telemarketers must do to comply with the Act, nor is it a list of measures that, if applied, would necessarily ensure a person’s compliance. Its primary objective is to help telemarketers meet their regulatory obligations under the Act and therefore reduce the number of unlawful telemarketing calls made to numbers on the Register.