ADMA launches code with ACCC

19 November 1998

On Monday 9 of November, ADMA officially launched its Code at an ACCC conference in Sydney - with the direct involvement of the ACCC chairman chairperson Professor Allan Fels.

More information on the launch, and how advocate Chris Connolly - who was invited by ACCC commissioner Allan Asher, was denied entry - in a story on 19 November at Newswire:

The ACCC's press release regarding the launch remains the only substantive mention of the ADMA code on its otherwise well structured, informative and searchable web site

Here are two advocacy press releases from 9 November 1998:

Back to the telemarketing page.

ADMA to launch its Code prematurely with the ACCC's blessing?

On Monday 9 of November, it seems that ADMA is going to launch its Code in Sydney, in the presence and with the involvement of ACCC Commissioner Alan Fels.  Chris Connolly  (0414 938942) is on the case more than I am right now - so he is the authoritative source of information on this extraordinary turn of events.
  • The draft code was developed in secret and without consumer involvement.
  • The ACCC gave it a provisional blessing, again without consulting consumer representatives, without public notice and any information about it on their web site.
  • The draft code had no provision for opting out of telemarketing, and is a brazen attempt to have the government legitimise the exploitative and intrusive approaches of many direct marketers.
  • Later, the ACCC issued an amendment to include a telemarketing opt-out scheme - but that proposal relies on ADMA's don't call list, in which consumers names, addresses and phone numbers are distributed to about 400 ADMA members.
  • Consumer advocates have called for the current code to be completely reworked - in direct negotiations between consumer groups and ADMA - before it is presented again to the ACCC.  The ACCC has delayed its pre-decision conference to give more time for comment on the draft code.
  • On Friday 6 November (or perhaps on the Thursday), ADMA issued a press release (which is not on their site and which I have not seen a copy of) - or at least some kind of information to the Sydney Daily Telegraph - which (according to information received from the Daily Telegraph by Chris Connolly) makes claims about the code, including the following:
  • It meets the ACCC requirements
  • It will be launched by Alan Fells
  • It meets the OECD requirements on electronic commerce
  • It meets the Privacy Commissioner's requirements
  • It has equal consumer representation
  • The first point is not true, since the ACCC has not made its final decision yet.  If the second point turns out to be true, then it will be a scandal.  The other three points are certainly false.
    Here is Chris Connolly's press release of Monday 9 November, and a link to his detailed critique of ADMA's code, in Rich Text Format.

    The proposed Direct Marketing Code:
    The Death of Privacy

    Today’s launch of the Direct Marketing Code is premature, says consumer
    advocate Chris Connolly, Director of the Financial Services Consumer
    Policy Centre. “It is ridiculous - they are launching a Code that is yet
    to receive authorisation by regulatory authorities, and that probably
    faces 3 to 4 months of detailed negotiations with privacy and consumer

    “In its current form, the Code is completely inadequate. Rather than
    improving privacy protection, it spells the death of privacy as we know
    it. The Code entrenches the worst aspects of marketing behaviour, allowing
    phone calls at 8am on Sunday mornings or 9pm on school nights,” said Mr.
    Connolly. Privacy and consumer advocates are completely opposed to the
    Code and intend to fight it though the Courts unless it is substantially

    Content Issues

    The Code makes no attempt to clamp down on telemarketing hours of business.
    The Code fails to address the issue of unsolicited email (or spam).
    The Code does not cover charities, fund-raisers, market researchers or
    There is no provision for compensation.
    There is no provision for an independent review of the Code.

    Process Issues

    The Australian Direct Marketing Association has failed to consult with
    consumer or privacy representatives.
    The Code has been developed in secret behind closed doors.

    “The ACCC have let down consumers badly by being involved in today’s
    launch,” said Mr. Connolly. “They know full well that we are opposed to
    the code and that we have a legal hearing booked to discuss the Code on
    November 26. The ACCC are supposed to be the ‘independent’ arbitrator at
    that hearing, so what are they doing here today promoting the Code? What
    sort of message does that send?”

    “We asked them not to participate in this premature launch of the Code,
    and they have ignored that request. We will have to consider very
    carefully whether or not to request the Commissioner to exclude himself
    from further discussions about the Code if he gives any indication of bias
    or the perception of bias today.”

    The Centre has prepared a twenty page critique of the Code. Copies
    available via email or fax on request. More information:
    Chris Connolly  - mobile 0414 938942

    Here is the critique in RTF format:  cpc-adma.rtf

    The above material added 10.15 Monday 9 November.

    Midday Monday:

    Press Release from the Australian Privacy Foundation


    Today’s launch of the direct marketing code of conduct has exposed the
    Howard Government’s failure to protect the privacy of Australians, the
    Australian Privacy Foundation said today.

    "The Government’s strategy of leaving privacy protection to industry has
    failed to deliver those safeguards," Privacy Foundation Director, Tim
    Dixon, said today.

    "This code is a dud. It was developed without consultation, it has
    gaping holes, and it gives no assurances to consumers about privacy

    "Rather, it will give the Government’s rubber stamp to a new onslaught
    of privacy intrusions by marketers."

    The Privacy Foundation was responding to the launch of the Australian
    Direct Marketing Association’s code of conduct by the Chairman of the
    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Allan Fels, today.

    Key issues highlighted by the Privacy Foundation were that:
    * The code has been launched without consultation with consumer or
    privacy groups, despite the fact that for the past decade they have
    worked extensively to improve the practices of direct marketers.
    * There is no effective enforcement process for the code, since it
    covers only those companies who are members of ADMA, and sanctions are
    limited to suspension of ADMA membership.
    * Consumers have no right to compensation if the code is breached.
    * The code authorises direct marketing at extremely unreasonable hours.

    "You cannot protect people’s privacy by letting businesses write their
    own rules," Mr Dixon said. "The direct marketing code shows this

    "If any industry should know how to get self-regulation right, ADMA
    should. They have been dealing with privacy concerns for many years.
    They know that most Australians object to their activities. Around 60%
    of people surveyed by reputable researchers think that their activities
    calling people at home without their consent, selling database lists
    and so forth, are not right."

    "The failure of the ADMA code underlines what the Government must
    understand: self-regulation will not give adequate privacy protection to
    Australians. Consumers know this. Business knows this. Other countries
    do as well ? Canada, one of the only countries without privacy laws for
    businesses, introduced its privacy legislation just last month.

    "Why won’t the Australian government give its people the same kind of
    privacy safeguards which the people of other nations can rely upon.
    Don’t Australian consumers have a right to control their personal

    Release November 9 1998 12pm. For further information, contact:
    Tim Dixon, Director, 02-9231 4949 or 0411-114411

    4.40 PM Monday - ADMA have a detailed press release at their site here . It contains misleading information, such as about how various consumer groups were involved in the consultation which lead to the code.  It doesn't actually say that the code has been finally approved by the ACCC - but due to its anti-competitve provisions it will not be enforcable unless the ACCC does approve it.    I have mirrored this page of ADMA's "DIRECT MARKETERS ADOPT TOUGH CONSUMER PROTECTION REGIME" here at the First Principles site: adma981109.html.

    - Robin