15 January 2009
Telecommunications companies responsible for more than half of Do Not Call Register complaints
Telecommunications companies will need to significantly improve their performance when it comes to contacting people on the Do Not Call Register, with 55 per cent of complaints received by the Australian Communications and Media Authority stemming from unwanted calls promoting phone plans and other related services.
‘This is a matter of obvious concern,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘Consumers register their telephone numbers because they want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls they receive and it is unacceptable to see that some telcos are not respecting that decision. Businesses have had ample time to adjust to the new laws and by now should have robust compliance measures in place.’
With the recent acceptance of an enforceable undertakings, from telecommunications company People Telecom, ACMA has completed a round of formal investigations focusing on telcos. Over the past 12 months, ACMA has issued four infringement notices to telecommunications companies, including a $147,400 penalty paid by Dodo Australia in October 2008. ACMA has accepted enforceable undertakings from Dodo Australia, Astron Communications and People Telecom. Formal warnings have also been issued to Global Telelinks, Ezycall and m8 Telecom.
ACMA has embarked on a campaign to improve telecommunications compliance that includes formal investigations, warnings, detailed letters putting individual providers ‘on notice,’ and an industry newsletter specific to the telco industry which provides practical advice about adhering to compliance requirements.
While the range of activities undertaken by ACMA in this sphere has been very comprehensive, Mr Chapman nonetheless noted that complex reselling arrangements and the use of offshore call centres has contributed to the level of non-compliance in the telecommunications industry.
‘I strongly urge businesses at every level of the telecommunications marketing chain to take responsibility for their Do Not Call compliance,’ he said.
‘ACMA will continue to seek an environment of accountability in the telecommunications industry when it comes to Do Not Call compliance. Where reselling arrangements exist, we are looking for companies at the top end of the marketing chain to take a lead role in insisting on high standards of compliance amongst the businesses that depend on them.’
Media contact: Christine Donnelly, ACMA Acting Media Manager, (02) 9334 7980.
Under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the DNCR Act), individuals can list their Australian fixed line or mobile telephone numbers on the Do Not Call 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 withdrawn at any time.
From 31 May 2007, it became unlawful, in the absence of consent, for any telemarketer in Australia or overseas to make non-exempt telemarketing calls to a number listed on the register. ACMA is responsible for overseeing the register’s operation and for investigating breaches of the Do Not Call Register legislation, including the DNCR Act and the Telecommunications (Do Not Call Register) (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2007 (the Industry Standard).
ACMA’s general approach to compliance is to seek to resolve a matter, where appropriate, without resorting to formal procedures. Where complaints are received, 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.
Where an informal approach to a business has not been effective in addressing the apparent compliance issues, ACMA undertakes a formal investigation into the matter. There are a number of enforcement options available to ACMA, which include:
- issuing a formal warning;
- accepting enforceable undertakings;
- issuing an infringement notice, which specifies a financial penalty; or
- commencing proceedings in the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.
ACMA can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a business has failed to comply with the DNCR Act. In giving an infringement notice, ACMA is merely alleging that the business has failed to comply with the law. An infringement notice is not a finding of a contravention of the DNCR Act. If the penalty specified in the notice is paid, any liability for the alleged contraventions is discharged. However, if the penalty is not paid, ACMA may commence court proceedings, and the court will determine whether the business has contravened the legislation.
Complaints to ACMA
During 2007–08, there was a total of 28,804 complaints received. Of these, 23,336 raised potential breaches of the DNCR Act and/or Industry Standard and were handled by ACMA. The remainder (5,468) were handled by the register operator.
It is ACMA’s view that the complaints received are largely due to systemic non-compliance within a relatively small section of the telemarketing industry. ACMA estimates that 5 per cent of the businesses complained about are responsible for about 70 per cent of the total complaints received. ACMA’s formal investigations are focusing on these businesses.