I believe this is a debacle. I believe the ACCC *has*
Not as quickly as at first - but in the end they merely tinkered with
the details of ADMA's cynical and incompetently drafted "code", and
then approved it.
The ACCC's own determination contains more than enough reasons why
they should have rejected this code outright in respect of
telemarketing and e-commerce.
If the ACCC had restricted the code to direct mail, with the various
improvements regarding compliance, then I would describe this as a
major win for consumers.
This bad outcome is no reflection on the advocates. I think
collectively we did an *excellent* job of detailing the many failings
of ADMA's shabby scheme. The problem lies entirely with the ACCC,
which has used some of our input to improve a few details of the code,
and then ignored the rest of our fundamental criticisms.
I do not have time or energy to write a detailed critique of the
ACCC's determination. I intend to put it and my final submission on
my web site soon:
This ADMA debacle signals the end of my involvement in consumer
Since 1992 I have worked very hard, and I believe in terms of
communication, submissions and ideas, very "effectively" on a number
of campaigns. I am one of a number of highly motivated and similarly
"effective" advocates in the privacy, freedom of speech and consumer
Perhaps in other campaigns the effectiveness has been translated
results, but in the fields I have worked in the outcomes have all been
worst-case. Therefore the effort on these issues has been entirely
(or almost entirely) a waste of time:
1 - Telemarketing
2 - Calling Number Display
3 - Internet censorship
4 - Cryptography (to a lesser extent)
Today we have a worst-case government response on telemarketing
approval for open-slather telemarketing with no effective opt-out
The Calling Number Display outcome is similarly worst-case.
service is widely promoted without any information about opting out,
and most people are unaware their number is being sold. Most people
don't even know what a reverse directory is.
The Internet censorship situation is worst-case too.
The cryptography situation is close to worst-case - but ultimately
government can win a against the need for and free availability of
So the great bulk of my consumer advocacy efforts over the years
produced no tangible result. I am involved in a number of other
fields in which my efforts *do* produce tangible results, are very
much appreciated and in many cases are paid for as well. That is what
I will be concentrating on in the future.
I do not wish to discourage other advocates from continuing the
fight, but at this point I have to cut my losses.
I hope that Chris and others appeal this decision. On telemarketing,
there are many clear reasons why the ACCC's final assesement is at
odds with all the evidence. For instance their statement about there
being no evidence that consumers are not joining ADMA's opt-out scheme
due to privacy concerns is easily proven by showing how few consumers
are currently in it (a few thousand perhaps) compared to the 70+% who
entirely reject telemarketing.
For my own sanity, I have to set a limit - and I will not be involved
in any further work on this issue, or any other. I can still add
things to the web site, and all that material will remain - more than
enough ammo to demolish the ACCC's spineless compliance with ADMA in
There are systematic reasons for these failures in the advocacy
I happen to have been involved in. I think the most important chain
of events is:
1 - An effective majority of people vote for a federal government
which is ideologically opposed to consumer protection. Basically,
the Liberal party (despite its lofty, formally stated principles)
sees the world as being composed of two types of people:
a - The stalwart people who run businesses.
b - The riff-raff - who should be kept ignorant
in order that they be a source of cheap labour, ready
consumers of the products and services of business and to
provide a strong tax-base.
2 - Once a government like this is installed, and its priorities
filter through to the regulatory agencies, then the rapacious
(and sometimes self-destructive) hunting and herding
instincts of the marketing people are unconstrained, and
consumers are like fish in a barrel. All the most thorough
and detailed consumer advocacy will be considered, and then
largely ignored. Later, consumers will be said to have been
There must be reasons why people vote for such destructive
One is that some people are greedy and aspire to an upper-middle-class
lifestyle - and they think that a greedy, socially divisive government
will help them. A second element is that many people are incapable of
discerning between strong, wise, principled leaders and those who are
strong only in terms of belligerence, bravado and puffery. (All
parties have suffered from leaders driven by ego, rather than
If we had a decent government, then we wouldn't need volunteer
It is a primary responsibility of government to systematically protect
citizens from threats (such as hostile foreign powers, telemarketers
and terrorists) which the citizens cannot protect themselves from on
an individual basis. This is pretty obvious to me - why else would we
bother with governments? I argued the case for this exhaustively to
the Senate IT Committee, because I thaught they had not understood.
At some stage, a sufficient proportion of the population will learn
relearn the truth about the priorities of current Federal government
(not that all Labor governments are perfect) and there will be a new
government. If the alternative government is principled and wise,
then the outcome for consumers will improve. The dangers include it
being badly lead, that it will be too conciliatory to rapacious
business demands and that it will seek to claim the "middle-ground" by
adopting many policies of its opponents.
In the US today, many people get two or more telmarketing calls
home each day. That would drive people slowly, but surely, mad. As
telecommunications costs drop, things could get this bad here.
I remain optimistic that Australians will not allow this degeneration
to occur, but I admit that I have no concrete basis for this optimism.
I live in hope that the Labor party will adopt a core election promise
of the eradication of telemarketing - and be swept into office!
In the meantime, consumer advocates will be keeping the flame alive
the flame of a principled, caring society - even if every battle ends
Robin Whittle firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.firstpr.com.au
Heidelberg Heights, Melbourne, Australia
First Principles Research and expression: Consulting and
technical writing. Music. Internet music
marketing. Telecommunications. Consumer
advocacy in telecommunications, especially
privacy. M-F relationships. Kinetic sculpture.
Real World Electronics and software for music including:
Interfaces Devil Fish mods for the TB-303, Akai sampler
memory and Csound synthesis software.