Federal parliament has passed legislation to create a national "Do Not Call Register" to prevent unsolicited telemarketing calls. But don't bank on your evening being uninterrupted by such calls because there are some exemptions: charities; registered political parties, independent members of parliament and candidates; religious organizations; educational institutions (where a call is made to a student, alumni or alumnae); and government bodies.
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan said the legislation responds directly to the increasing level of community concern about the exponential growth in unsolicited telemarketing calls.
"The government will now begin setting up the Do Not Call Register which will allow individuals to register both their home and mobile number," Coonan said. "It will then become illegal for telemarketers in both Australia and overseas to contact the numbers."
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will establish and oversee the operation of the Do Not Call Register, and will commence a tender process shortly.
"Based on overseas experience, we expect there will be a high level of demand from individuals who wish to place their numbers on the register - as many as one million numbers are expected to be registered in the first week alone," Coonan said. "So it is important that we get the detailed operational arrangements right to make sure that a workable register is developed."
Coonan has requested the ACMA to continue to consult with relevant stakeholders to ensure the legislation is "implemented appropriately", and anticipates announcing the start of the register in early 2007.
"The Do Not Call Register will give peace and mind to those who don't like, and indeed resent, the intrusion and disruption caused by unsolicited telemarketing calls," she said.
The ACMA will be responsible for implementing the Do Not Call Register scheme, including the setting of national telemarketing standards on issues such as permitted calling hours and the provision of certain information by telemarketers. These standards will apply to all telemarketers.
"This legislation means for the first time that individuals have a single contact point to help address unwanted telemarketing calls, and ACMA can issue formal warnings, infringement notices or even start court proceedings if telemarketing standards are breached," Coonan said.
It will be free to put a number on the register, and both fixed-line and mobile numbers can be registered.