The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has failed to adequately educate consumers how the Do Not Call Register works, the auditor-general has found.
An audit report released yesterday found many customers did not make complaints even when they had a valid reason and were dissatisfied with the complaints handling process.
The Do Not Call Register (DNCR) is a list of home and personal mobile telephone numbers which telemarketers are legally forbidden to call. Since its launch in May 2007, consumers have listed 3.83 million of an estimated 20 million eligible home and mobile numbers on the register.
ACMA research found 75 per cent of consumers surveyed in June 2009 were aware of the register. This research found for the majority of respondents, the register was effective in reducing the number of unwanted marketing calls. In addition, ACMA reported a 60 per cent drop in the number of complaints about unwanted calls from 2007-08 to 2008-09.
Despite this awareness, ACMA's promotional activities had been "limited in effectively educating consumers on how the register and the DNCR Scheme operate", the audit report found.
"Consumers' awareness of how they should make a complaint is low; and the ACMA's data shows that there is a relatively high number of registrants who do not make a complaint when they potentially have a valid reason to do so.
"Without an understanding of the types of calls that a registrant may continue to receive, how long it takes for a registration to take effect and the duration of the registration period, there is an increased risk that consumers could make misinformed complaints and be dissatisfied with the effectiveness of the register in reducing unwanted calls."
ACMA lacked information on why consumers did or didn't make complaints and how satisfied they were with the complaints handling process, the audit found.
"Capturing and using complaints that are received presents a valuable resource to the ACMA as they provide the information on which it bases and targets its compliance efforts. It is therefore important that it collects more complete complaint information and that complainants have confidence in the complaint handling process."
The auditor-general also noted that approximately 1 million numbers on the register would soon be reaching the end of the three-year registration period, which would be "a key upcoming test" for ACMA.
Since its launch, ACMA received more than 37,000 complaints relating to unwanted phone calls. In response, it sent 948 advisory letters and 301 warning letters to telemarketing companies.
In cases where these letters failed to reduce the number of complaints against a company, ACMA instigated 33 investigations and completed 24. These resulted in eight formal warnings, eight infringement notices (which included financial penalties) and 10 enforceable undertakings.
Internet service provider Dodo received the largest ever infringement notice of $147,000 last year. ACMA is now taking one company to the Federal Court for failing to pay an infringement notice.