Contact centre industry fears register will be a white elephant

Demands to clarify funding

The Australian Teleservices Association (ATA) has called on the federal government to outline a clear enforcement strategy for the Do Not Call Register (DNCR).

The ATA, which represents the local call centre industry, has also requested details of enforcement funding over the next five years amid growing concern by members over the cost of participation.

Organizations who do not comply with the Do Not Call Register legislation face fines of up to a million dollars.

While the ATA has worked closely with the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) in the development of the legislation, members fear it could be used as a tool to fill government coffers and damage industry growth.

The legislation is a key part of the ATA Australian Contact Centre Standards program to be launched later this year.

The ACMA is responsible for overseeing the DNCR, determining the fees telemarketers will be charged for accessing the register and for investigating breaches of the legislation.

ACMA is also responsible for developing a national standard for minimum levels of conduct by telemarketers and research callers.

The DNCR enables individuals with Australian fixed line and mobile numbers to list their fixed and mobile telephone numbers on the register and opt out of receiving a wide range of telemarketing calls.

Under the legislated scheme, it will generally be unlawful to make telemarketing calls to numbers placed on the register from the end of this month.

Industry will contribute to the costs of operating and maintaining the register by paying fees for access.

ATA executive director, Michael Meredith, said the initiative is at risk of being viewed as a dead hand on the growth of the industry and is unlikely to deliver real consumer protection.

"Concerns are growing costs levied for DNCR compliance will fill government coffers while damaging a growth industry and failing to deliver any measurable benefit to consumers," he said.

"ATA members have voiced concern the ability for Australia to compete overseas will be reduced and the cost of compliance will mean Australian businesses reduce their use of telemarketing as a leads generation channel.

"Members want assurances the DNCR can produce the outcomes aimed for in the interest of consumers but there is no clear enforcement strategy.

"The proposed costs make it hard for industry to accept another layer of bureaucracy and additional costs for compliance when the positive outcomes are dubious and negative outcomes are likely," he said.

"If clear, definable and measurable enforcement strategies are absent from the mix, all we are left with is a dead hand that threatens to stifle growth and cost jobs in the industry.

"It is not clear at this stage how effective enforcement will be funded and the concern is the DNCR will end up being a massive white elephant that is costly and unwieldy to correctly administer."

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