Government cracks down on direct marketing through amendments to privacy laws

The Federal Government is clamping down on direct marketing practices under new laws introduced by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, which will also change how businesses collect and distribute credit information

The laws come during Privacy Awareness Week, which the Government and various industries are participating in so as to ensure businesses and individuals know their responsibilities and rights when it comes to handling private information.

Roxon said in a statement this morning that the laws would extend privacy protections to unsolicited information and tighten regulation around the use of direct marketing.

The Australian Direct Marketing Association was contacted by SmartCompany this morning, but a reply was not available prior to publication.

“It is fitting to announce major legislative reforms to the Privacy Act during Privacy Awareness Week,” Roxon said.

“In an increasingly digital world, both consumers and governments have a role to play to protect privacy. In introducing these changes, the Gillard government is doing its bit to protect the privacy of Australian families.”

Thousands of businesses use direct marketing practices, but these laws will change how information gathered about customers is used. For instance, there will be tighter restrictions on whether businesses can send customer details overseas.

The laws will introduce new allowances for individuals to have easier access to credit reporting information, in a major change for the way credit agencies operate.

The amendments will also make clear the obligation on businesses to justify disputed credit listings, while they will also simplify the complaints process for individuals. The collection of credit reporting information on children will be outlawed.

“There have been big changes to the way we access finance since 1990 when the existing credit reporting provisions came into effect,” Roxon said.

“Many consumers have expressed their frustration at not being able to understand their credit rating.”

Nixon also said she expects the credit industry will benefit, as it allows businesses a more accurate picture of a person’s credit situation.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Privacy Act, to be introduced during the winter session of Federal Parliament.

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