It’s just over a year since the Australian government launched the Do Not Call Register. By adding your name and phone number to this register, you (theoretically) stop telemarketers from cold-calling you. I hate telemarketing calls – they’re a complete waste of my time and energy – so I signed up straight away.
So, how has it worked out over the last year? Well, the number of telemarketing calls we get has dropped from over 1 a week to maybe 2 a month, so that’s a definite improvement. I had one very persistent debt collection agency calling me repeatedly every 2 days after I was on the register, but after making a complaint on the Do Not Call Register website, they stopped. (Turned out they thought I was somebody else. Nice bit of research there.) We also had a call from a mortgage company last month, but again, a quick complaint seems to have sorted that one out. (Apparently many people had complained about the same company. I hope they get hit with a nice big fine.)
It’s for a good cause – honest
The biggest problem, though, has been with charities. For some inexplicable reason, charities were made exempt when the Do Not Call Register Act was introduced. Charities are all to eager to exploit this loophole, too – we get more charities calling us now than ever before.
I don’t understand the logic here. I’m no Scrooge when it comes to charitable giving, but what gives a charity the right to call me, when I have explicitly stated that I do not want to receive telemarketing calls? When a telemarketer calls me at 6PM and wakes my sick baby who’s just got off to sleep, I don’t care whether they’re selling me mortgages or donations to one-armed homeless Martians, they will get an earful from me. (Apparently though they’re providing a service to the community by waking my sick baby.) Telling them not to call me again rarely works either.
Some people just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer
The other problem is with every Aussie’s favourite: Telstra. Because we’re unlucky enough to be a Telstra customer (we have a phone with them), this apparently means they’re allowed to badger us day and night, trying to get us to buy their mobile and broadband services. (The exact wording from the ACMA site is: “(consent) may be inferred by the person making the telemarketing call if there is an existing business relationship with the company making the call”.)
So even though I will never, ever, buy anything that Telstra tries to sell me over the phone – which means they are wasting both their time and mine by calling me – they are still allowed to harass me whenever they feel like it, because there is an “existing business relationship”. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told Telstra to stop calling me.
There’s also been a bit of a problem with scammers charging unsuspecting folks to add their numbers to the register (despite it being free and easy to do it yourself). We haven’t had any scammers contacting us, thankfully.
Another issue was with the fact that I run a business from home. Again, for some bizarre reason, businesses aren’t allowed on the register – obviously the government considers it a good thing that telemarketers can waste business people’s valuable time to sell them life insurance. I got a letter to this end from the ACMA, saying that they wanted to remove my number from the register because they found it listed on my business website. However, after pointing out to them that the phone is pretty much exclusively used for personal calls, they were happy and our number got reinstated.
Despite the downsides and loopholes, though, I’d call the Do Not Call Register a definite success – but with lots of room for improvement. Telemarketing seems to be much more rife here in Australia than it was back in the UK, so anything that can be done to curb it is a good thing.
By the way, if you’re sick of charities calling you even though you’re on the register, the Choice website has mounted a campaign to get the charity exemption removed. The even have a handy letter that you can print out and send off the appropriate government official. Nice.