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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hanging up on telemarketers

The Federal Government has announced planned legislation to establish a free national ‘do-not-call’ register to commence in about 12 months time. Individuals and small business will be able to register and a call to a registered number by telemarketers will constitute an offence with fines up to $220000.

The Minister for Communications announcement refers to “public interest” exemptions for charity groups and people undertaking social research. The Government’s discussion paper on the topic last year included a longer list of possible exemptions including registered political parties. Some press reports today refer to an exemption for “political lobbyists” whatever that might mean. Another large hole is likely to be the exemption for calls from any organisation with which an individual has an “existing business relationship”.

The Federal Privacy Commissioner in its submission (see 2005) recommended against exemptions for categories of callers and suggested that an individual should have the right to opt out of these type of calls as well.

The new initiative is welcome and there should be lessons to learn from overseas experience, summarised in this note by Caslon Analytics.

As always, the devil will be in the detail.

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