National ‘Do Not Call’ Register
Monday, 24th April 2006 at 1:04 pm
The Federal Government has agreed to a national, legislated Do Not Call register to protect consumers from nuisance telemarketing phone calls but the Victorian Government insists it must clear and consistent exemptions to protect charities.
The Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan says the Register will cost just over $33 million to set up and the Australian Government has committed $17.2 million with the remainder of the costs to be met by industry.
The Government says it will introduce legislation as soon as possible to establish the Register and create minimum standards for the behaviour of telemarketers.
Senator Coonan says that based on international experience the Government expects that there will be one million registrations in the first week of operation and four million after the Register’s first year.
She says the Register will apply to all telemarketers operating in Australia, as well as those overseas telemarketers who represent Australian companies.
It will also include a range of enforcement options, including warnings, fines, formal directions and financial penalties.
The legislation will also establish national minimum contact standards for telemarketers.
The standards will cover permitted calling hours, minimum information requirements and termination of calls. The standards will apply to all telemarketers, including specified public interest bodies exempted from the Do Not Call Register arrangements.
More than 90 per cent of the 495 submissions received in response to a discussion paper on a Register released last year supported the creation of a Register.
A Do Not Call register, open to individuals and small businesses, will enable people to opt out from receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls. Once a telephone number is registered, it will be prohibited for telemarketers to contact that number.
However, Senator Coonan says in recognition of the need for some organisations with underlying public interest objectives to make unsolicited calls, a limited range of exemptions will apply, for example, to charity groups and people undertaking social research.
Exemptions will also apply to companies with an existing business relationship with an individual, for example with existing accounts or contracts.
Individuals and small businesses will not be required to pay a fee for registering their telephone numbers. Telemarketers will contribute to the costs of running the scheme through the payment of subscription fees to access the register.
The register is expected to be up and running in 2007.
The Bracks Government in Victoria says the Federal Government has finally buckled under the pressure of campaigns from the States and consumers to introduce laws to protect consumers from nuisance telemarketing calls.
The Victorian and NSW Governments last year joined forces to lobby Senator Helen Coonan on this issue, including setting up a phone poll which logged more than 20,000 calls of support for a Do Not Contact register.
Senator Coonan must now consult the States and Territories to ensure all telemarketers are covered by the legislation and that consistent laws and standards apply across all jurisdictions.
Consumer Affairs Minister Marsha Thomson says the Victorian Government believes the register must:
– apply to offshore telemarketers to the extent possible through Commonwealth extra-territorial legislation;
– apply to all unsolicited telemarketing calls, regardless of the technology used to make them; and
– have a clear and consistent exemptions policy, allowing charities and those conducting surveys to continue telemarketing. Businesses which have agreements with current customers to receive calls should be able to continue to do so.
– include restrictions on the times when a telemarketer can call, such as only between 9am and 8pm on weekdays and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays or public holidays.
The states have called on the Federal Government to consult on the implementation of the Register.