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Complaints down, calls up for bigger register

2008-11-10 00:00:00

Complaints about unsolicited marketing calls to private phones have fallen this financial year, according to the Federal Government agency that oversees the Do Not Call register, which may expand to include business and fax numbers.

At the end of last month, 2.62 million private numbers were on the register, set up in May last year so subscribers could opt out of receiving cold calls at home.

A spokesman for the Australian Communications and Media Authority said the number of complaints about breaches of the register in the three months to September averaged fewer than 1300 a month. In the same period last year there were 2400 complaints a month.

About 40,000 numbers were added to the register for the first time last month. Australian companies face penalties if they breach the register.

Telecom provider Dodo was recently fined almost $150,000 for infringing the register when it hired an overseas telemarketing contractor to boost sales.

Last month, marketing companies submitted 77 million phone numbers to be cross-referenced.

Now, many Australian businesses are seeking the same protection.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has foreshadowed a possible expansion of the register and recently sought public comment on a proposal to make all numbers eligible.

Trudi Wight, a manager of a small business in South Kempsey, NSW, told the department that because her number could not be excluded from telemarketing databases, the amount of unwanted marketing calls to her business number had noticeably increased since last year.

"They call at night during meal times, while we are working," she wrote in a submission.

"We feel badgered. My husband has also been conned into accepting services that we did not require and I end up spending money and hours of my overstretched work and family time sorting out the mess."

Another submission urged the Government to allow medical practitioners to be eligible for inclusion on the register. Dr Michael Waldie, of Ashgrove in Queensland, said in his submission that unsolicited calls meant he missed incoming calls.

"Last month Telstra recorded over 800 'line busy' calls to my office and I blame time spent dealing with telemarketers for part of this."

The Australian Direct Marketing Association said in its submission that attempts to expand coverage were without merit and would provide no community benefit. It warned an expansion of the register would jeopardise employment in the call centre industry.

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