11 August 2006
ACMA moves to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has commenced the development of a national standard for the telemarketing industry with the release of a discussion paper today.
The standard will form an important part of the Do Not Call Register Scheme, announced by the Government in response to increasing levels of community concern about the growing number of unsolicited telemarketing calls.
This standard is intended to establish minimum standards for all telemarketers, such as the hours in the day when telemarketers are allowed to make calls, as well as the kind of information they are obliged to divulge about themselves and the organisation they represent.
ACMA is also responsible for the development of the national Do Not Call Register. The Do Not Call Register, due to go live in 2007, will enable individuals with Australian fixed line and mobile numbers to elect not to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls. It will be illegal for telemarketers in Australia and overseas to contact a number listed in the register. Charities, religious organisations and certain other groups will be exempt.
ACMA will seek a suitable register operator through an open tender process. It is anticipated that ACMA will issue a draft Request for Tender later this month for industry comment. Responsibility for overseeing the register’s operation and for investigating breaches of the legislation will remain with ACMA.
ACMA is inviting comments from consumers and industry about the development of the industry standard by close of business, Friday 8 September 2006. ACMA’s discussion paper Industry Standard for the Making of Telemarketing Calls, is available on the ACMA website or from ACMA by calling (03) 9963 6881. Comments may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to register for information on the Do Not Call Scheme please send an email to email@example.com
Media contact: Donald Robertson. ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
The Do Not Call Register scheme
Legislation to establish the Do Not Call Register scheme received Royal Assent on 30 June 2006. The government introduced the scheme in response to increasing levels of community concern about the invasiveness and growing number of unsolicited telemarketing calls and the inconsistency in current rules governing the telemarketing industry. For more information about these levels of community concern, see the Explanatory Memorandum to the Do Not Call Register Bill 2006 at www.comlaw.gov.au
Under the legislation, ACMA is responsible for establishing and overseeing the operation of the register itself and for developing and setting up, in consultation with industry and consumers, national standards to establish a minimum level of conduct by telemarketers.
Tender process for Do Not Call Register
ACMA will seek a suitable register operator through an open tender process. The first step in the tender process will be the release (anticipated to be later this month) of an initial draft of its Request for Tender (RFT) for industry comment.
Development of ACMA determinations about the register
ACMA will be issuing a discussion paper inviting industry participants and the wider community to provide feedback and insights on how the register should be administered and accessed. This consultation, together with responses to the RFT, will inform ACMA’s development of the legislative determinations relating to the operation of and access to the register provided for under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006.
ACMA will also be consulting with industry on the level of fees payable for accessing the register and the provision for certain exemptions from the fees.
As well as registering numbers on the register, the Register Operator will be responsible for handling complaints about the register and for referring complaints to ACMA about breaches of the Do Not Call Register Act 2006.
Development of a telemarketing industry standard
In developing the telemarketing industry standard, ACMA must consult with:
- any relevant industry body or association
- the general public
- the ACCC
- the Privacy Commissioner, where the standard relates to certain privacy matters
- at least one consumer body or association
- the States and Territories.
Who will the industry standard apply to?
The industry standard will apply to all ‘telemarketing activity’, which is defined in Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. Broadly speaking, it encompasses any call to an Australian number that is made to market, advertise or promote goods and services. It also includes:
- all telemarketing calls including voice calls made to conduct opinion polling and to carry out standard questionnaire-based research
- messages left on answering machines, pre-recorded messages and missed call marketing that is made by way of a voice call
- all telemarketers including those who will be exempt from the general prohibition from calling numbers on the Do Not Call Register (such as charities, registered political parties and religious organisations).
In other words, the forthcoming industry standard for a minimum level of telemarketing behaviour will apply to all telemarketers, whether or not they are exempt from the Do Not Call Register.
The development of an industry standard is an important component of the Do Not Call Register scheme, which is established under two pieces of legislation:
- the Do Not Call Register Act 2006; and
- the Do Not Call Register (Consequential Amendments) Act 2006.
The Do Not Call Register (Consequential Amendments) Act 2006 makes various amendments to related legislation, including the Telecommunications Act 1997, to support the Do Not Call Register and to enable the development of relevant industry codes and standards relating to telemarketing.
Under section 125A of the Telecommunications Act 1997, ACMA must determine certain industry standards relating to the telemarketing industry before the commencement of Part 2 of the Do Not Call Register Act 2006.
The legislation is available at www.comlaw.gov.au
Industry and public education
A critical factor in the successful implementation of the Do Not Call Register scheme will be the development and conduct of an education program to raise awareness of the Register and the provisions of the telemarketing standard. ACMA is developing a communications strategy for this overarching work.
ACMA’s communications activities will complement the strategies that the contracted Register Operator will specifically implement to raise awareness of the register. The Register Operator will be required to develop a coherent promotion and publicity strategy to ensure that all persons that are obliged to use the Register and all individuals that could benefit from the register are aware of it and its use.