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We’re one step closer to curbing unsolicited phone calls, as the legislation to create a national ‘Do Not Call’ register has been introduced to Parliament.

The Do Not Call Register Bill requires the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to establish and oversee the register, and prohibits telemarketers from calling a number which has been included on the register.

“This legislation will create a register that is workable and enforceable but one that balances the legitimate needs of the telemarketing industry in Australia with the desire for consumers to have some peace and privacy,” said Senator Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications.

“The telemarketing industry will also benefit through the introduction of nationally consistent standards covering issues such as permitted calling hours. And the Register will mean that telemarketers can better target their calls by removing from their contact lists details of consumers who do not want to receive their calls,” she added.

Individuals will not be charged to put their number on the register. The Australian Government will contribute $17 million towards the cost of establishing the register, with $15.9 million to be contributed by the telemarketing industry. However, small businesses will not be included in the register.

“The Government has decided not to include small businesses on the register. Businesses contact each other for a multitude of reasons in the course of day to day operations, and the Government was concerned not to potentially expose organisations to fines and penalties for ordinary business-to-business contact,” said Senator Coonan.

The ACMA will be responsible for the enforcement of the legislation and will have the power to issue warnings or commence court proceedings. The courts will be able fine companies up to $1.1 million.

However, the Bill will not mark the end of all telemarketing calls, as “public interest” groups, such as charities, political parties and educational institutions will still be allowed to make unsolicited calls.

If all goes well in parliament, the register will be up by early 2007.

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