Australian DMA Wants Different Approach To DNC

The Australian Direct Marketing Association is trying to steer the land down under away from a U.S.-style national no-call list to a co-regulatory approach in which the industry plays a role in running the list.

Australian lawmakers are considering a national do-not-call list as a solution to consumer privacy concerns, citing the popular success of the United States' DNC list to back their proposal.

Members of Australia's Labor Party pledged last week to introduce legislation creating a national DNC list, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. It would carry fines of $10,000 Australian per violation and, like the U.S. list, would exempt charities, political organizations and market researchers.

Australia's DNC debate mirrors the one in the United States in many ways. Like the United States, Australia has two organizations representing telemarketers, the Australian Teleservices Association and the Australian Direct Marketing Association.

Consumers have voiced similar levels of frustration with the volume of telemarketing calls, the Morning Herald reported. Inconsistent state telemarketing laws have proliferated, causing compliance problems for national companies, said Jodie Sangster, manager of legal and regulatory affairs at the ADMA.

But Australia's solution may differ from the U.S. list, Sangster said. The ADMA is pushing for an approach similar to the one in the United Kingdom, where the government enforces a list managed by the industry.

“We have watched other countries,” she said. “The U.S. situation has brought the issue to the forefront in Australia; i.e., put the issue on the government's radar. The systems that seem to work are the UK and some European systems — these embrace a co-regulatory approach.”

The U.S. Direct Marketing Association advocated a similar approach. But the group eventually gave up its opposition to a government-run list.

Labor's proposal follows a March report, “Who's Got Your Number,” in which the Australian Communications Authority cited two proposed mechanisms to protect consumer privacy: a DNC list and a “do-not-contact” list, which would prevent mail as well as telephone contact with consumers.

The ACA report stemmed from concern about marketers using public telephone number directory data for “data enhancement.” The report said marketers used public telephone number data for cleaning files, merging and managing databases, developing demographic and lifestyle data and appending mail lists to include telephone numbers.

Such uses are common in the United States, where public number data is considered available for commercial and non-commercial purposes. However, the ACA views such uses as violating Australian law, which limits the use of public number data to certain non-commercial uses, including police investigations, and the publishing of telephone directories.

In written comments to the ACA, Michael Meredith, executive director of the Australian Teleservices Association, advanced many of the arguments against the DNC list that the teleservices industry has put forth in the United States. The industry already is heavily regulated at the state level, and the ADMA — much like the United States' DMA — operates an effective private DNC list supported by the industry.

“It is clear that there are already sufficient legislative and industry controls in place to protect the privacy and use of personal information,” Meredith wrote. “Business has already taken steps to work within these controls.”

The United Kingdom has had a DNC list since 2002, when Parliament passed legislation that enabled Ofcom, the British telecommunications regulator, to establish a list. The Direct Marketing Association (UK) maintains the list under Ofcom's supervision.

In May, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission passed rules requiring telemarketers to abide by company-specific no-call requests from consumers. But it stopped short of creating a national no-call list.

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