29 March 2017
Ten years and more than 10.9 million numbers after the Do Not Call Register was launched, the ACMA has re-made the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard with improvements to better enable Australians to manage unwanted telemarketing.
‘The Telecommunications Standard, which provides complementary safeguards to the Do Not Call Register, has been remade to include new obligations for telemarketers to provide the name of their organisation at the beginning of calls, in addition to the name of the entity on whose behalf they are calling,’ says Australian Communications and Media Authority’s acting Chairman, Richard Bean.
The standard contains important rules that apply to all telemarketing and research calls, including those exempt from the Do Not Call Register Act such as registered charities and political parties. It specifies:
- when calls are permitted
- when calls must be terminated
- what information the caller must give.
The standard also now clarifies other provisions including the information that must be provided to a call recipient if they call back a calling line identification number (to obtain details about the telemarketing call that was made to them).
The ACMA will be actively monitoring compliance with the new standard as well as the Do Not Call Register rules, with particular focus on whether consent has been obtained to make telemarketing calls to consumers on the register, and whether calls are made within permitted calling hours.
Australians can register their personal fixed-line and mobile phones, as well as business fax numbers on the Do Not Call Register, by calling 1300 792 958 or visiting www.donotcall.gov.au. Registration is quick and confidential.
The ACMA is responsible for administering the Do Not Call Register as well as enforcing the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the DNCR Act) and the related Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2017 (the Telemarketing Standard) and Fax Marketing Industry Standard 2011 (the Fax Marketing Standard).
There are currently 10.9 million numbers on the Do Not Call Register, including 5.6 million fixed-line numbers, 4.9 million mobile numbers and 430,000 fax numbers. The registration of mobiles numbers is now the fastest growing registration type.
Australians can list their fixed-line or mobile telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Register, provided those numbers are used primarily for private or domestic purposes. Any number used exclusively as a personal or business fax number can also be registered.
Together, the DNCR Act and standards provide a suite of important consumer protections to help manage unwanted telemarketing. The ACMA’s telemarketing consumer guide contains tips for consumers to reduce the number of unwanted calls they receive.
It is illegal for unsolicited telemarketing calls or marketing faxes to be made to numbers on the Do Not Call Register, unless they fall under certain exemptions. Businesses have 30 days from the date a number is registered to check their call lists and stop contacting that number.
The key obligation not to make unsolicited telemarketing calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Register applies to all telemarketers, regardless of whether they are businesses that make telemarketing calls themselves or businesses that engage a third party to make telemarketing calls on their behalf.
Some telemarketing calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Register may still be made, including instances where the telephone account-owner (or a nominee of that person) has given permission (consented) to receiving the calls.
Consent may be either express, or inferred from an existing business or other relationships between the two parties (for example, when a bank calls one of their customers). Consent may also be withdrawn at any time by a person indicating to the business they do not wish to receive further telemarketing calls. The withdrawal of consent takes immediate effect.
Other calls that are permissible, as they fall under the specific exemptions allowable under the DNCR Act include:
- calls from political parties, members of parliament and political candidates, soliciting donations or offering goods and services
- calls from educational institutions in which the recipient is, or was, a student of that institution, offering goods or services
- calls from registered charities, soliciting donations or offering goods or services
- opinion polling and research calls.
The Telemarketing Standard states that telemarketing calls cannot be made (at the place that is the usual residential address of the relevant account‑holder):
- before 9 am or after 8 pm on weekdays
- before 9 am or after 5 pm on Saturdays
- at any time on Sundays or on public holidays.
The times in which research calls are allowed are slightly different. Research calls cannot be made:
- before 9 am or after 8.30 pm on weekdays
- before 9 am or after 5 pm on Saturdays
- before 9 am or after 5 pm on Sundays
- on public holidays.
Citizens and consumers may report breaches of the Do Not Call Register rules, including in relation to permitted calling times, directly to the ACMA at www.donotcall.gov.au or by calling 1300 792 958.
The ACMA actively monitors compliance with the Do Not Call Register rules and may formally investigate where there is evidence of systemic issues or serious risk of harm involved.
The ACMA also engages in a range of citizen and industry awareness-raising activities aimed at equipping consumers with information to better assist themselves and industry to better meet their compliance obligations.
If the ACMA finds a business or person has breached the Do Not Call Register rules, the ACMA has a range of enforcement options available, 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.
Remaking the Telemarketing Standard
Under the Telecommunications Act 1997, there must be an industry standard in place while the DNCR Act is in force. The Telemarketing Standard was first made by the ACMA in 2007, and was amended in 2011.
Prior to remaking the 2017 Telemarketing Standard, the ACMA conducted a public consultation on a number of proposed changes. Detailed information about the consultation process and the changes made is set out within the Explanatory Statement.
Telemarketing calls in Australia research
Recent Telemarketing calls in Australia—Consumer experience research commissioned by the ACMA shows that the incidence of telemarketing calls remains about the same as in 2012, with eight in 10 adult Australians surveyed reporting they had received at least one telemarketing call in the last six months. Calls to fixed-line home phones from businesses trying to promote or sell something are the most common, and the biggest problem for consumers.
The research shows that the overall incidence of telemarketing calls has remained steady when compared with the results of research undertaken in 2012. There has also been little change in the type of organisation making these calls—business and charities are still the most common.
Calls are still more likely to be received on fixed-line phones, with calls from charities the most common type. Calls from a business trying to sell or promote something are the most common type of telemarketing call received on mobile phones.
The research has informed the ACMA’s remaking of the Telemarketing Standard as well as the ACMA’s compliance and educational activities, including in relation to identifying potential priority compliance areas on which to focus regulatory attention (for example, adherence by telemarketers to permitted calling times and whether or not consent has been provided to call numbers on the Do Not Call Register).