Sunday, 28 March 2010

Time to renew your "Do Not Call" registration: But will it make any difference?

Who can believe it is almost three years since the Do Not Call register first opened on 31 May 2007? It is now time to re-register, but will it make any difference?

Who can forget the spectacular failure of the Do Not Call site as the beleaguered horde of telemarketing victims rushed to join? The crash of the Australian register was not unique, with the Canadian register experiencing similar problems when it was launched over a year later.

But does it matter? Recently, a number of my colleagues have been complaining about receiving telemarketing calls on their work telephone numbers. And not just from random 'Scamway' businesses but from some of the major banks and other *respectable* corporations.

The federal government is addressing this issue, but it seems for the moment the Do Not Call register is for private telephones only:
In the 2009-10 Budget, the Government announced plans to widen the scope of the Register, to allow the registration of all telephone and fax numbers, including the numbers used by businesses and emergency service operators (DBCDE website).
The worst thing is that the federal opposition disagrees. So much for corporate social responsibility and encouraging productivity. An unintended consequence of the register has been to re-direct telemarketing to consumers in the workplace.

But how much capacity does government have to regulate telemarketing, spam, scams and so on? It would seem  that regulation of poor business behaviour would best be left to a combination of self-regulation and market forces. 

But half the trouble is that the issues of telemarketing and spam are converged (all related to communications channels and marketing practices) while the legislation is still actively diverged along old ideas of  communications technologies.

It would be good to see the major industry groups collaborate to encourage an acceptable way to conduct marketing - something along the lines of the Internet Industry Associations' Spam Code. Judging by the responses from consumers in both Australia and Canada, it is obvious that poor marketing techniques are an unwanted nuisance for most of us.

In short, it doesn't take a genius to see that poor marketing practices aren't good for business and there is clearly a role for government to regulate such practices. But government needs to stop trying to do it all alone. Granted that many *respectable* businesses are often the main perpetrators, but greater consumer involvement in a self-regulatory model just doesn't make it onto the policy radar. 

In the meantime all we can do is hope and re-register.

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