The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has backed down on Do Not Call Register rules by allowing research calls to be made on Sundays.
Under the revised industry standard, which commences on May 31 with the Do Not Call Register Scheme, a research caller must not make or attempt to make a research call on a Sunday before 9.00 am or after 5.00 pm.
Telemarketing calls are still prohibited on Sundays under the standard.
ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said the authority has reached the conclusion that prohibiting research calls on a Sunday could potentially reduce the benefits to the community from well-structured research.
'This view is based on strong evidence provided to ACMA that the prohibition could undermine the value of longitudinal data sets where data had previously been collected on Sundays, as well as increase the potential for bias because samples were not representative," he said.
Before varying the standard, ACMA called for views on the issue of research calls on a Sunday through the release of a discussion paper on April 20, 2007.
The submissions received provided extensive new quantitative and qualitative information which emphasised the importance of Sunday calling to quality research.
'ACMA understands that the community generally considers unsolicited telephone calls to be inconvenient and intrusive,' Chapman said.
'However, the community also appreciates the importance of quality research in delivering social and economic benefits.
'After considering the views put to us, we have concluded that calls should be allowed on Sundays but with tighter calling hours than those that exist under current self-regulatory arrangements. This will allow valuable research to continue.'
ACMA will be closely monitoring compliance with the new Sunday calling times and consumer response to the standard.
'This work will be used as part of ACMA's comprehensive review of the calling hours under the standard in the next 12 months,'Chapman added. '
The review can be brought forward at any time should significant concerns be brought to our attention.'
Breaches of the standard may incur either a formal warning or financial penalty, determined by the Federal Court. Penalties are up to $250,000 per contravention for bodies corporate and $50,000 for individuals.
ACMA also expects that the telemarketing and research industries will move quickly to develop codes of practice to address consumer concerns about industry activities which are not addressed by the ACMA standard.
The Australian Teleservices Association (ATA) has consistently opposed aspects of the Do Not Call Register (DNCR) legislation claiming it will damange industry growth.
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.