Any business would want to avoid the kind of punitive fines meted by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) for breaching telemarketing guidelines.
If you closely follow what has been happening, you realize that some companies in the renewable energy sector have paid dearly for going against the law. How did they get there? What telemarketing breaches did they commit? What can you do to be on the safe side? Let’s break it down.
The renewable energy sector in Australia is indisputably one of the most developed in the world. Australia is ranked among the top ten countries with the highest proportion of renewable energy. This, in essence, means that production and consumption of renewable energy is far much higher and to a good extent- impressive.
There are instances where renewables have contributed up to 50% to the national grid. In the same measure, companies working within this space are on the rise, leading to stiff competition. Naturally, this leads to some unorthodox and unconventional marketing tactics as each claim a piece of the cake.
Cases in Point
In December 2019, the ACMA reported that of all the telemarketing complaints it received in the entire year, 7 percent involved the energy retail sector.
Although numerous cases were reported, the intrigues in two cases stood out: One involved Exno Energy Pty Ltd (Trading as Energy Deal) and the other involved 1st Energy Pty Ltd. The ACMA found that Energy Deal failed to stop calls marketing calls when the recipient indicated that they wanted the call service terminated. Similarly, 1st Energy, in its contracts, failed to include provisions requiring compliance with the country’s telemarketing laws. For this, the company was fined a $2,100.
Costly Breaches To Avoid
The following are gross mistakes that could land you in trouble.
1. Making Calls to Numbers in DNCR.
Australia’s Do Not Call Register is safeguarded in law under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006.
The law was created to reduce unsolicited telemarketing calls and give guidelines to calling hours among other necessities. However, some organizations including political parties, government organizations, charities, MPs, political candidates as well as education organizations, are exempted.
If your recipients complain to the ACMA and it is indeed verified that this law was breached. You will surely land in trouble.
In 2018, telemarketing firm Lead My Way was fined a record $285,000 for calling numbers in DNCR. According to ACMA, just one call to a number on DNCR could cost you $3,400.
2. Phone Spamming
Whether through texts or calls, spamming is a punishable offense in telemarketing. It is also one of the offenses for which several firms in the renewables sector have unfortunately attracted the wrath of ACMA.
Spamming occurs mainly through phone calls and text messages as well as emails and now on social media. In 2019, ACMA listed the five common types of scams:
- NBN Impersonation Scam.
The caller pretends to be a staffer at National Broadband Network (NBN) and asks you to make arrangements to be connected to the broadband access network. They threaten to disconnect your phone and internet within 24 hours if you don’t comply.
- Computer Virus/ Tech Support Scam:
The caller pretends to be technical support staff from a recognized organization such as Microsoft and requests to access your device remotely. They can manipulate your devices in any way going forward.
- DNCR Register Scam
The scammer uses accurate or false information and attempts to obtain personal information such as financial reports from the recipient.
- “Chinese “Scam
This scam is so named because the backlog of complains involved Chinese nationals in Australia. However, it also targets other foreign nationals in the country. It takes various forms such as being asked to pay up tax arrears, deportation threats, asked to collect non-existing package or letter from a Chinese Government official and so on.
- Accident Claim Scam:
The scammer calls an accident victim and pretends to be a legitimate organization. They pretend to help the victim settle accident claims speedily, but in essence, are interested in obtaining personal information
3. Failing To Obtain Consent
As a company outsourcing telemarketing services, make it very clear that the telemarketing firm has to obtain formal consent from the persons they engage with.
Failure to this, ACMA could affect exceedingly high fines on you. In 2018, Solar Pty Ltd based in Queensland was fined a hefty $10,800 for failing to obtain consent to numbers on the register. ACMA acknowledges that the number of such complaints specifically related to solar telemarketing have increased drastically in the past years.
Allied Construction and Roofing Pty Ltd was also fined $21,600 infringement for a similar offence.
4. Making Calls After Consent Has Been Withdrawn
Another common breach is continuing to make calls when consent has been withdrawn. If your recipients indicate at any point of interaction that they wish to withdraw, don’t persist and don’t pressure them. It may get you into bad books with the Australian Communication and Media Authority. Just Let it be.
Finally, Stay In The Know
The renewable energy business is a dynamic and rapidly growing space in Australia.
As a result of well-outlined systems and incentives, players in this field introduce more products each year, yet consumers aren’t increasing at the same rate. This leads to stiff competition, making it a cutthroat business anywhere in Australia.
More players are still coming into this space and the days ahead are bound to get tougher. Whichever the case, avoid outright breaches such as the ones outlined above.
For clarity purposes, engage a lawyer to ensure that you operate within the right legal guidelines.