Preventing Unwanted Calls on Your Cellphone
With the obsolescence of landlines, telemarketers have successfully infiltrated our personal devices and beyond. Presently, approximately 54% of mobile users find themselves on the receiving end of marketing calls at some point.
So, how can we put a stop to these unwelcome calls? And how exactly do telemarketers and charities acquire our mobile numbers in the first place?
These questions are particularly pressing in the age of COVID-19, as research conducted by CHOICE suggests that nuisance calls and texts have increased during pandemic-related lockdowns.
On this page:
Strategies for halting telemarketing calls:
1. Enroll in the Do Not Call Register.
By registering your mobile number on the Do Not Call Register, you can put an end to most unwanted calls. Sign up at donotcall.gov.au or contact 1300 792 958.
2. Pay attention to the Ts & Cs.
Remember, nothing comes for free! Review the fine print on online forms, competitions, and contracts to understand what permissions you're granting.
3. Utilize a blocking app.
Employ a number blocking app or take advantage of your smartphone's built-in number blocking feature to prevent telemarketers from reaching you.
4. Master the art of saying no.
Request politely but firmly to have your name removed from their call list. You also have the right to terminate the call at any point, and telemarketers must comply.
5. File a complaint.
If the calls persist, report the issue directly to the company or charity responsible. If you believe a telemarketer has violated regulations, inform the ACMA by visiting donotcall.gov.au or calling 1300 792 958.
How do businesses obtain my mobile number?
Businesses have the option to purchase your number from specialized data-selling companies. But how do these companies obtain your data? Chances are, you granted them access when you checked "yes" and agreed to the terms and conditions on a website or during an online competition.
Alternatively, marketers sometimes use random number generators and automated dialing systems to track you down.
(In both scenarios, companies are required to "wash" the data to remove any numbers registered on the Do Not Call Register. Thus, if you're registered, you should not receive unsolicited calls from unfamiliar companies.)
Furthermore, there may be instances when you hear from a company with which you already have an existing relationship.
How you inadvertently give telemarketers permission to call:
Businesses are allowed to contact you if you have given them either explicit or implicit consent, referred to as "express" and "inferred" consent in the business world.
Think of it like making friends on Facebook versus in real life. On Facebook, you send a friend request, and the person accepts. This is express consent — you clearly asked, and they clearly answered yes.
In real life, you may meet someone at a party, have coffee a few times, and then invite them to your birthday BBQ. You never explicitly asked them to be your friend, but your interactions indicate that you might want to include them. This is inferred consent: you have an existing relationship with them, so it's reasonable to assume that they want to hear from you.
In the realm of telemarketing, inferred consent occurs when you have an existing business relationship with a company. They are allowed to contact you to inform you about deals and products that might interest you.
"But the entity still has to be contacting you in relation to that relationship," says Jeremy Fenton, executive manager of unsolicited communications and cyber security at the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
If you happen to hold an account with a banking institution, it is not necessarily acceptable for them to reach out to you with sales pitches for insurance services, for instance. It is vital to consider the existing relationship and how the marketing contact aligns with it.
The issue lies in the fact that consent can be given without one's full knowledge. It is possible that you may have completed a form or participated in an online competition where you checked the box to accept the terms and conditions, thereby granting permission for your contact information to be utilized for telemarketing purposes - and potentially shared or sold to other companies.
It is worth noting that the majority of telemarketing calls or text messages received on mobile devices come from businesses. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of what you are consenting to when allowing them to engage in such activities.
In the absence of specific instructions, express consent is typically valid for three months starting from the date it was given, although there are instances where it may last indefinitely.
The Do Not Call RegisterWith over 11 million registered numbers - four million of which belong to mobile phones - it is evident that Australians are not fond of being harassed by commercial entities.
Surprisingly, only 14% of mobile numbers were listed on the register as of 2016, despite the fact that the uptake for mobile numbers far surpasses that of landlines.
If you find yourself inundated with calls, the Do Not Call Register is your initial course of action.
"As a process, it is quick, free, and confidential," says Fenton. "It effectively puts an end to a majority of commercial calls."
To get started, either visit donotcall.gov.au or dial 1300 792 958 to register your number. Please note that it may take up to 30 days for your registration to become active. The registration is valid indefinitely, and you only need to register once.
While this cannot guarantee the complete cessation of unwanted calls, it will considerably diminish them.
When does 'Do Not Call' mean 'Do Not Call'?Receiving calls after joining the Do Not Call Register may lead one to question if the effort was worthwhile. Just as you thought you were in the clear, a 'chugger' (charity mugger) from a marketing agency can disrupt your evening meal by asking for donations.
Despite being a valuable tool, the Do Not Call Register does not provide an absolute solution.
"Some individuals fail to comprehend that by granting permission, telemarketers can indeed call them, even if their number is on the Do Not Call Register," states Fenton. "Moreover, people sometimes do not fully realize that they have actually consented."
Exemptions to the Do Not Call Register include:
- registered charities
- opinion pollsters
- government bodies
- social researchers
- educational organizations.
These particular callers are allowed to bypass the Register, but they must adhere to the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2017, which outlines guidelines such as:
- the circumstances in which a telemarketer or researcher can contact you
- the information they are required to provide at the start of the call
- the information they must disclose upon request
- the obligation to terminate the call upon your request.
Nearly half of all major charities are affiliated with the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA), which has developed its own code of conduct aimed at safeguarding vulnerable consumers and supposedly holding itself to a higher standard than the industry norm.
Although the self-regulatory code only recently came into effect on 1 January 2018, making it difficult to assess its effectiveness, especially since it was created with minimal consumer input.
If you suspect that a member of the FIA is violating the code, you have the option to lodge a complaint directly with the charity or with the FIA. You can reach the FIA at [email protected] or 1300 889 670.
Delve into the inside scoop of our investigations into scams and unethical business practices.
What to tell telemarketersIf you abruptly end a call with a telemarketer, your number might remain on their call list, resulting in potential future annoyances. Some charities obtain lists of donors from other organizations or professional fundraisers, so if you donate to one, you may start receiving calls from others.
The most effective way to avoid persistent calls is to request that your number be removed from their list.
When dealing with telemarketers, be polite but assertive. The key phrase is: "Please remove me from your calling list." They are required to comply and must terminate the call upon your request.
"I used to receive countless 'gifts' from charities I didn't even recognize, but since I asked them not to call, I've been free of them," says Jessica, a CHOICE.Community member.
"For the charities I regularly donate to, I make it clear that I want to be taken off their call list and caution them that if they call me again, I'll cancel my donation. I never hear from them again. When other charities call, I ask not to be contacted and inform them that I won't donate to charities that initiate calls. I can't remember the last time a charity called me."
CHOICE tip: Some professional fundraising companies work with multiple charities. If the fundraising company is an FIA member, you can request that they remove your number from all their campaigns – they are obligated to honor this request.
How to file a complaint about unsolicited callsOur research shows that 88% of individuals wish they had more control over stopping unsolicited calls. Well, the power is in your hands, but you must take action.
"Consumers hold the power. They can grant permission, and they can revoke it," states Fenton. "Whether permission is granted directly or indirectly, consumers have the authority to withdraw it."
When you inform a business that you no longer want to receive telemarketing calls from them, they are obligated to cease calling you – consent ends at that point. (Refer to 'What to tell telemarketers' for guidance.)
If they persist in calling, contact the company or charity directly to register a complaint. If that fails, escalate the matter to the ACMA.
"We value consumer complaints greatly. They play a vital role in shaping our education and awareness campaigns, as well as our compliance actions," explains Fenton.
"If a caller continues to persist, we want to be made aware of it. If you believe that someone has violated the rules, report it to the ACMA."
The ACMA is taking strict action against consent-based marketing practices and has already uncovered significant violations. "Most of the breaches we have encountered so far involve a failure to honor the withdrawal of consent – meaning that a consumer has expressed their desire to no longer receive marketing communications, but their request has been ignored."
To file a complaint, visit donotcall.gov.au or call 1300 792 958.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.
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