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Friday, 15 August 2008 10:45

Do Not Call Register could be expanded to cover fax and all phone numbers

Well over two million Australians have tried to block telemarketing calls since the Do-Not-Call register came into effect in May 2007, but only personal fixed and mobile phone numbers can be registered at present. The government is now looking at expanding its scope to any phone, and fax numbers.

The Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has released a discussion paper  seeking community views on potential changes. It canvasses two main options: that all telephone numbers should be allowed to be listed on the register; and that fax numbers should be allowed to be listed on the Register.

It this is unacceptable, it suggests a more modest expansion to enable phone numbers used by emergency service organisations and phone and fax numbers used by small businesses to be listed. Although all emergency calls from the public are to numbers such as 000 or 112 (from cellphones) these are redirected to individual services operating on standard pone numbers, and these have received telemarketing calls.

The discussion paper says the impetus for the review has come from businesses claiming that unsolicited telemarketing and fax marketing calls have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of their operations.

There has separately been some discussion whether the Spam Act should apply to fax messages and this was reviewed in 2007. The outcome, according to the discussion paper was that "consumers should be given the choice of opting out of unsolicited commercial fax messages [but] that a blanket ban approach may be unwarranted. (when the DNC register was under discussion in late 2005 this review of the Spam Act had already been scheduled and it was left to deal with the fax question)

A year after the current register became operational, at the end of May 2007, over two million phone numbers had been listed. According to DBCDE, the number is now in excess of 2.4 million. However, a survey conducted by Dimension Data earlier this year claimed to show there had been minimal reduction in the number of outbound telesales calls made from Australian call centres. Nor did respondents indicate that the introduction of the register had impacted the success rate of outbound telesales calls.

Separate to the DNC register, there are restrictions in place on the times at which unsolicited telemarketing calls can be made. A key requirement of the standard is that telemarketing calls cannot be made after 8.00pm on weekdays and research calls not after 8.30pm on weekdays. No such calls are permitted before 9.00am on any day, after 5.00pm on Saturdays or at any time on Sundays or national public holidays.

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