Communications companies gotalk and People Telecom have attracted the attention of Australia’s regulators due to alleged breaches of the Do Not Call Register Act and for dodgy telemarketing and sales practices, respectively.
In gotalk’s case, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has taken gotalk – a provider of prepaid calling cards and other telecommunications services – to the Federal Court for what the regulator alleged was more than 40,000 calls by the company’s offshore call centres to numbers on the Do Not Call Register.
In a statement, ACMA noted it was the first time it had taken a company to court over breaches of the act, although it has found a number of breaches by companies and negotiated solutions in the past – for example, heavy fines.
gotalk has been in hot water with the ACCC before over its international call centres — for example, in June 2008 the company inked a court-enforceable undertaking with the regulator to rein in the telemarketers, who had in some cases been calling the same customers with “great frequency”.
People Telecom’s case was a little more complicated.
A statement by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued today stated the company had admitted its sales agents transferred customers from rival carriers without consent, and made other “potentially misleading claims” in order to win customers.
The regulator said that as part of a court-enforceable undertaking, People Telecom will now offer affected consumers refunds and waive debts arising from telemarketing and door-to-door sales on its behalf, as well as undertaking measures to ensure the problems were not repeated.
The ACC said that some customers who were transferred against their will had disputed the need to pay People Telecom’s invoices – and had the matters referred to debt collectors as a result.
“In dealing with consumer complaints, companies should act quickly to identify any trends or problems areas and take action to avoid recurrence,” said ACCC chair Graeme Samuel in the statement. “Companies should also be sure that debt collection is not pursued where there are real questions over the legality of the contract that led to those debts.”