ADMA's 1992 Survey showing at least 70% of people find outbound telemarketing unacceptable

This is - the web version of Appendix 1 of my submission to the ACCC. Robin Whittle 18 October 1998

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In 1992, when I was researching the telemarketing problem for my submissions to the Austel Privacy Inquiry, I spoke to the then ADMA Director, Mr Greg Baker, and asked him about some research work they had done, which the people at Austel had mentioned.  He very kindly posted me copies of the full statistical breakdown of respondents' answers to the nine questions - including one about whether people accepted outbound telemarketing at all, which Austel had not been aware of.

This was the last question, and an analysis of those results appears immediately below.  Following that is a tabular listing of the questions and most important results, together with a description of the survey.

After that are links to .jpg and .gif files which enable you to view and print facsimile copies of the documents I received.

ADMA knows full well that at least 70% of the population reject outbound telemarketing.  They must know that the true figure is between 90 and 99 percent.  But they brazenly ask the ACCC to legitimise their code which allows virtually unlimited telemarketing with no opt-out mechanisms, 8AM to 9PM 352 days a year.

At an IRR Information Privacy Conference in Sydney, 12 and 13 August 1996, the current director of the ADMA made a presentation to delegates about outbound telemarketing in a way which seriously understated its privacy problems. At question time (I was one of the presenters at the conference), I asked him if he knew of any research on what proportion of the public considered telemarketing unacceptable.  He replied that he didn't know of any.  I then asked him if he had any idea himself of what the proportion might be, and again he said he didn't know.  I then showed him - and delegates - the ADMA's own research from 1992, and he said that yes he was familiar with it.  Some delegates objected that my approach was something of an ambush, but he is the director of the ADMA, which ostensibly is interested in privacy.  He was speaking for half an hour at a privacy conference which several dozen people paid $750 a day to attend.  The telemarketing members of his organisation systematically ambush tens or hundreds of thousands each day in their homes and workplaces. It is hard to think of any industry group whose pretenses about being interested in the welfare of consumers are so at variance with their actions.

The Survey

The survey was entitled "Community Attitudes Towards Tele-marketing" and was conducted by telephone on 8 and 9th February 1992 by Quadrant Research Services Pty Ltd of Crows Nest NSW.  Quadrant are a market research company - not telemarketers.  They would have followed a code similar to that adopted by all reputable market research organisations.  The current copy of the code is available from the Market Research Association of Australia

A total of 1,204 respondents were surveyed in the following cities:
City Respondents
Sydney 300
Melbourne 304
Brisbane 200
Adelaide 200
Perth 200

(This is a good sample size for Australia.  According to statistical tables in a report by Elliott and Shanahan for the Privacy Commissioner in 1993, a sample size of 1,000 gives results accurate to 2.9% (for a 70/30 split of answers) within a 95% confidence level.  This means that, assuming the sampling technique did not select respondents with views different from the rest of the Australian population, that due to sampling uncertainties there is only a 5% chance that the true opinion of the population would be outside the 67.1 to 72.9 range, for a question to which 70 % of respondents answered yes to. )
Telephone surveys are done by dialing random numbers, so the researchers do sample the ~10% (at the time - now ~15%) of customers who pay Telstra not to have their number listed in the white pages.  Telemarketers generally call numbers from the white and yellow pages phone directories (probably from the printed directories in 1991/92, or from a CD-ROM of white pages numbers).

The response rate for the survey is not shown.  Market research companies prefer not to show this, because it can often be rather low.  I have conducted my own research - by asking market research callers - and it seems that a 60% response rate is an exceptionally good result, with some surveys getting less than 10%.  The poor response rates to market research calls are in part directly attributable to the extreme consumer annoyance at receiving telemarketing calls, and market researchers have long been wanting telemarketing controlled so as to reduce this pressure, which increases market researchers costs and seriously skews the sample of people they can reach by telephone.  More on this distinction from the MRSA here.

Assuming an optimistic 60% response rate, and assuming that those who don't want to help with a market research survey will certainly find telemarketing calls unacceptable, it can be argued that this survey indicates that only 27% of 60% (ie. 16.2%) of the population approved of telemarketing.  All available anecdotal evidence is that the true figure in the late 1990s is extremely low indeed - probably one or two percent.

The questions and answers

The following headings contain the verbatim text from the analysis tables.  The actual questions would probably have been worded a little differently.

Q 9  Do you generally approve or disapprove of receiving telephone sales calls if they are made between the hours of 8.00am and 9.00pm?

  Approve Don't know Disapprove
Male 31 2 67
Female 23 3 73
18-24 39 1 60
25-34 33 4 63
35-44 23 3 74
45-54 26 2 72
55+ 18 2 79
Working full time 31 3 66
Working part time 27 2 71
Not working 23 2 75
Average of all 1,204 respondents 27 3 70%

Note that the elderly and those who stay at home are the ones who disapprove the most of outgoing telemarketing.  In one succinct analysis - "The more you get it, the less you like it - it must be bad!".

This figures for elderly people and those at home (not working) show how wrong it is for telemarketers to say (as they have in the past) that their calls are welcomed by many elderly people.  Some telemarketers have stated in newspaper articles that they feel they are providing a social benefit by chatting to lonely elderly people - but the elderly often have to go to a great deal of physical effort to reach the phone in time, and regard a telephone call as being a formal and potentially vital call from friends or relatives.

The tragedy is that there remain a few consumers who will occasionally respond positively to sales and fundraising calls - sufficient to keep some telemarketers going.  This subset of people, which includes some older people, and some trades and business people - who are extremely angry about telemarketing interrupting them on mobile phones -  is sufficient, in the current regulatory vacuum, to keep telemarketers fishing by calling everyone.

That some small proportion of the public do occasionally respond to telemarketing calls is no justification whatsoever for repeated, intrusive privacy invasive calls to the rest of the population.

A copy of part of the analysis of question 9:


Q 1  Have you received any telephone call at any time in the last 3 months . . .

Type of call Yes
Requesting a donation to a charity 45%
Offering to sell you a product or service 33%
Offering to sell your company or employer a product or service 6%
After sales service for product you already purchased 4%
After sales service for product your co. already purchased 2%
None of these 41%

Q 2  Last call received? Filters: have received sales call

Type of call Yes
% of the 737 respondents who answered yes to one or more call types in Q1
Requesting a donation to a charity 61%
Offering to sell you a product or service 31%
Offering to sell your company or employer a product or service 3%
After sales service for product you already purchased 3%
After sales service for product your co. already purchased 0.4%
Don't know 1%

Q 3  Thinking about that last call, had you ever purchased a product or service from that particular company or donated to that particular charity prior to receiving this call? Filters: have received sales call

  % of the 737 respondents who answered yes to one or more call types in Q1
Yes 40%
No 60%

I know quite a few people who started off giving to "charity" callers, but who subsequently gave up as they got more and more calls - from other "charities" as well.  "Charity" telemarketing is extremely expensive and therefore inefficient.  Many apparently "charity" calls are from businesses who license the name of a charity and pass on a small proportion of the "donation".

Q 4  Thinking about that last call that you received, would you say it was generally, helpful, unhelpful or neither helpful or unhelpful.  Filters: have received sales call

  % of the 737 respondents who answered yes to one or more call types in Q1
Helpful 31%
Unhelpful 24%
Neither 45%

Q 5  Again, was that last call made at a convenient or inconvenient time for you?  Filters: have received sales call

  % of the 737 respondents who answered yes to one or more call types in Q1
Convenient 47%
Inconvenient 52%
Don't know 1%

Q6  Was the caller polite, rude or neither polite nor rude?  Filters: have received sales call

  % of the 737 respondents who answered yes to one or more call types in Q1
Polite 89%
Rude 3% (23 respondents)
Neither 8%

Note that telemarketers generally speak in a very polite way, to manipulate the targeted person into talking to them, since most people are loath to be abrupt or discourteous to someone who exhibits polite behaviour.  This is a direct attempt to counteract the fact that the call itself is extremely impolite.  If these were polite, respectful people, they would not be telemarketing - or at least not for long.

Q7  Did you make a complaint either to the caller, the company involved or a business association, about that rude call? Filters: Caller was rude

  % of the 23 respondents from Q6
Yes 9% (2 respondents)
No 91% (21 respondents)

This indicates that most people believe it is futile to complain about telemarketers.  Experienced telemarketers, and those who manage them, are amongst the most emotionally hardened people in the non-criminal community.  Some of them feel sorry for themselves if you get angry at them.  Others just hang up or ring back immediately to spite you if you tell them what you really think of their intrusive conduct.  The organisation they are calling on behalf of obviously has no care for the public of for its public standing (an extremely costly and foolish attitude for any recognised charity or company), so why go to the stress and trouble of complaining?

Q8  Was that complaint in writing or oral? Filters: Rude caller / made complaint

  % of the 2 respondents from Q6
Oral 100% (2 respondents)

Scans of the results pages

These pages contain the full demographic breakdowns of responses.  All but one of the questions has two pages of demographic analysis.
  Horizontal - for 
viewing on screen
Vertical - best 
for printing
Title page title.jpg  
Q1 Type of telemarketing call received in past three months. q1a-h.jpg  q1b-h.jpg q1a-v.gif q1b-v.gif
Q2 Which of those calls was the last one received. q2a-h.jpg  q2b-h.jpg q2a-v.gif  q2b-v.gif
Q3 Had the respondent dealt with that caller's organisation before? q3a-h.jpg  q3b-h.jpg q3a-v.gif  q3b-v.gif
Q4 Was the call helpful? q4a-h.jpg  q4b-h.jpg q4a-v.gif  q4b-v.gif
Q5 Was it at a convenient time? q5a-h.jpg  q5b-h.jpg q5a-v.gif  q5b-v.gif
Q6 Was the caller polite, rude or neither? q6a-h.jpg  q6b-h.jpg q6a-v.gif  q6b-v.gif
Q7 (For the 23 who answered "rude" to Q6.) Did you make a complaint? q7a-h.jpg  q7b-h.jpg q7a-v.gif  q7b-v.gif
Q8 (For the 2 who answered "yes" to Q8.) Was that complaint oral or in writing? q8-h.jpg q8-v.gif
Q9 Do you generally approve or disapprove of receiving telephone sales calls if they are made between the hours of 8.00am and 9.00pm? q9a-h.jpg  q9b-h.jpg q9a-v.gif  q9b-v.gif

Update history

Updates in reverse order: Robin Whittle  October 18 1998
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