The federal government yesterday extended the period for phone numbers registered on the Do Not Call Register to eight years.
The register is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. ACMA chairman Chris Chapman confirmed all numbers currently registered will automatically be extended from the existing six years to eight years.
“Any new registrations will also be valid for the new period, making life easier for Australians wishing to opt out of telemarketing calls and marketing faxes, long term,” Chapman said in a statement.
The register is a free service which lists Australian numbers, both mobiles and landlines that are used primarily for private or domestic purposes to opt out of receiving most unsolicited telemarketing calls.
Since its inception, the Do Not Call Register has grown to include 8.5 million numbers and businesses can incur a maximum fine of $1.7 million for breaching the register.
Recently, the call centre operator which operates the Do Not Call Register was slapped with a $110,000 penalty by ACMA after making telemarketing calls to numbers listed on the register.
But David Simon, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising, told SmartCompany this morning the problem with the Do Not Call Register is that it is littered with inaccuracies.
“The big problem the extension represents for industry is that the Do Not Call register has a lot of inaccurate numbers on it and a lot of numbers that should not be on it, like business numbers, which are not eligible [to be on the register],” he says.
Simon says inaccurate numbers include those which were registered by a person who then moved numbers but the telephone number remains on the Do Not Call Register.
“The more inaccurate numbers you get on the list and the longer the list is extended, the less and less numbers there are for businesses to do business with,” he says.
According to Simon, the advantage to sticking with the original three to five-year registration period for the Do Not Call Register is it acted as an automatic flushing mechanism to get rid of inaccurate numbers.
However, he says the outcome could have been worse, as the government was initially pushing for an indefinite registration period.
“We argued forcefully against this on the basis of the inaccuracies in the list which would just continue that problem and exacerbate it,” he says.
“It is a bit of a win for industry now they have decided to extend it only for two years from six years to eight, but the problem is it is almost like the government is trying to extend it indefinitely by stealth.”
Simon says the ADMA’s main gripe with the list is its accuracy, so it is continuing discussions with the government as to how best to clean the list.
However, the ADMA has rejected the government’s initial proposal, which would impose a 30% to 60% increase in the cost to industry to use the Do Not Call Register.
“At least the extension gives the ADMA and the industry time to go back to the drawing board with the regulator and try to fix the problems with register,” Simon says.