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Summary: ACCAN policy officer Xavier O'Halloran describes an all-too-familiar experience with annoying telemarketers, and why ACCAN thinks we should hang up on their calls for good.

 Picture of man on phone, throwing his arms up in frustration

Recently I was waiting for a call from a friend, but when my phone finally rang it wasn't the person I was expecting – it was someone trying to sell me something. The telemarketer started off with a long spiel, rattling off statistics about how common fires were in Australia and how they were easily preventable...with the purchase of a simple fire blanket.

While the importance of fire safety is front of mind in a particularly hot Australian summer, I kept asking myself, "how have they been able to get their hands on my personal phone number without my permission?" Well, in Australia, your mobile and landline phone numbers are publicly available to telemarketers unless you take the time to sign up for the Do Not Call Register. The Register has been in operation since 2007 and has had almost 9 million numbers added, with on average 1 million more added each year.

Currently your registration lapses after 8 years and you are required to re-register. People often forget and it can be annoying to constantly re-register when you never want to receive these kinds of calls. When you register, it means unwanted telemarketing calls or faxes to your phone are prohibited, with some exceptions, like charities and political parties.

The options

The Department of Communications is considering four options to amend the Register:

    1. Reducing the period to 3 years
    2. Retaining the 8 year registration
    3. Extending to an indefinite registration, or
    4. Removing the need to register altogether.

The final option would mean a telemarketer could only call your number if you had agreed to receive marketing information from them. This is similar to how the Spam Act regulates electronic communications, like emails.

What ACCAN thinks

ACCAN has advocated for the final option – the removal of the need to register. There are an overwhelming number of people who have signed up to the Register and unsurprisingly the research shows only 2% of Australians actually enjoy receiving unsolicited marketing. So we think it is time we shift to an opt-in approach to receiving calls from telemarketers – meaning your number would automatically be off-limits to telemarketers unless you give them your specific consent.

If you're not on the registry already, you can sign up at www.donotcall.gov.au