Is cold calling effective for international sales
Page 'PK-Nr. 309/2011 '
Vienna (PK) - Before the discussion of the individual items on the agenda in today's meeting of the National Council, the President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer, announced that the BZÖ had submitted an urgent request to the Federal Chancellor entitled "Paid enough for bankrupt states - from Europhoria to Eurosclerosis" . This is up for debate from 3 p.m.
In addition, the FPÖ introduced eight deadline proposals that will be voted on at the end of the meeting. The respective committees are to be given a deadline of April 28 to deal with the following initiatives. These are the following motions: F motion 742 / A to amend the ABGB (custody rights and duties of unmarried parents) in the judiciary committee; F-Motion 283 / A (E) on increasing the number of staff in the executive branch in the Interior Committee; F-Motion for a resolution 232 / A (E) on mandatory labeling of meat, dairy products and eggs from animals fed on GMOs in the Committee on Consumer Protection; F-Motion for a resolution 1185 / A (E) concerning the preparation of a study on the situation of Muslim women and girls in Austria in the Equal Treatment Committee; F-Motion for a resolution 1113 / A (E) on the ban on neonicotinoid-dressed maize seeds in the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry; F motion for a resolution 693 / A (E) on better remuneration for law enforcement officers in basic police training in the Interior Committee; F motion 1294 / A for the early termination of the XXIV legislative period of the National Council in the Constitutional Committee and F motion for a resolution 964 / A (E) on clear labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients in the committee for consumer protection.
More protection for consumers against "cold calling contracts"
Unwanted advertising calls that result in a contract that one later regrets ("cold calling contracts") will be put to a halt in the future. So far, the initiators of telephone marketing have often been able to evade legal action by appearing anonymously. Corresponding changes to the Telecommunications Act and the Consumer Protection Act are intended to stop such practices. Both proposals passed the National Council today, partly unanimously, partly by majority.
In the future, contracts that are concluded as part of unsolicited advertising calls must be confirmed in writing by the company within one week; a special right of withdrawal is provided for consumers. Cold calling contracts in connection with profit commitments and betting and lottery services are void at all.
The agenda also included motions from the Greens and the BZÖ on the subject of mobile communications, which, however, did not find a majority. In their legislative initiative, the Greens are calling for risks to be taken into account in the Telecommunications Act and for the establishment of a legal obligation to take into account health, ecological and neighboring law aspects. The BZÖ, in turn, would like to anchor regular monitoring of compliance with the prescribed limit values for mobile radio systems by the telecommunications authority in its resolution.
F-Mandatar Gerhard DEIMEK said that the topic of "cold calling" affects many citizens in an unpleasant way. The fact that one "pulls the money out of their pockets" with the promise of a profit should not, however, be an issue. The companies that enriched themselves with it did it because it was legally possible and did not shy away from "ripping off" even the less well-off and not yet capable of business. What is being decided today offers a certain minimum protection, since the callers would have to declare themselves and the penalty would now be increased to € 58,000. The Freedom Party will therefore agree to this change. However, one does not want to support the current amendment to the Consumer Protection Act, which his parliamentary group does not consider to be expedient. Deimek also criticized the way the governing parties dealt with opposition motions. The F-mandate concluded that by introducing requests to set a deadline, the aim was to point out this grievance today and tomorrow.
MP Johann MAIER (S) also identified serious problems in connection with "cold calling". According to a study by the German consumer advice centers, 66.7% of the complaints received over the phone relate to winning and gambling contracts. However, this type of fraud is organized internationally, which is why the problem has to be addressed at European level. At the moment, 2/3 of the relevant criminal proceedings would have to be put aside because the post box companies are based abroad, said the S-MEP. At the European level, they are already working towards a solution within the framework of the consumer protection directive. The results of this discussion had to be awaited, however. What is being resolved today prohibits the suppression of telephone numbers and annul telephone contracts aimed at participating in lotteries and games of chance. The initiative of Federal Minister Bures to eliminate cost traps should also be supported, Maier concluded.
G mandate Birgit SCHATZ said that everyone knows the calls that have already been mentioned several times from their own experience. However, many of those affected did not know that one could withdraw from contracts concluded over the phone. This "surprise", especially older people, must be counteracted - a view that the federal government once shared. What is now being adopted, however, only means protection against telephone fraud with regard to games of chance. You could not understand why the government bill is not based on the total nullity of all "cold calling" contracts, said Schatz. It could also take another two to three years before the consumer protection directive mentioned comes into force. The speaker also described it as "bizarre" that the German government, with this draft law, admits that prohibited advertising calls lead to legal contracts. The Green Group will therefore table an amendment aimed at the total nullity of all contracts concluded in this way.
Of course, one represents the interests of consumers, said MP Gabriele TAMANDL (V). Today it is finally decided to prohibit the suppression of phone numbers and the nullity of contracts concluded in this way that are assigned to the competition and lottery sector. This already covers 80% of the frauds in this area. In addition, the SPÖ and ÖVP campaigned for the extension of consumers' rights of withdrawal. What would be implemented at the European level to solve this problem, however, would have to be seen, was clear to Tamandl.
MP Herbert SCHEIBNER (B) criticized the previous speaker for her defense of a legal regulation which, in his opinion, clearly misses the target in the area of consumer protection. Here, as in the question of call data recording, he could not understand the consent of the SPÖ and ÖVP to the present amendment. There were serious data protection concerns, because in fact any authority could in future request the stored call data from citizens. That is the "spy state par excellence," said Scheibner. It would have been better to deal with this problematic matter again in committee. Unfortunately, the approach of the governing parties does not represent a single case of a questionable way of dealing with parliamentarism. Over 1000 motions from the opposition have been postponed and refused to be properly dealt with in the plenary. The change in the telecommunications law was "impossible" and should not be decided that way, Scheibner confirmed in conclusion.
Federal Minister Doris BURES told the previous speaker that she shared his opinion that in the area of call data recording one had to deal with difficult fundamental rights issues such as privacy and data protection. However, the new technologies made people's lives easier in many areas and they could no longer be imagined from everyday life. But that also creates new problems for consumer protection, which has to keep pace with technical developments. The government is addressing these questions through regulations in the Telecommunications Act and the Consumer Protection Act. Another amendment to the Telecommunications Act, through which operators are to be obliged to provide cost information in order to avoid cost traps for telephone and Internet, has also just been under review, explained the minister. The law passed today brings many positive changes. It prohibits the suppression or falsification of call data for advertising calls and increases the penalties for unauthorized advertising calls. This will effectively put an end to the brawl over the phone. It will not be possible to prevent unsolicited calls, but the legal regulations will deter dubious businessmen. You therefore ask for approval for a good law.
MP Martin STRUTZ (F) was surprised that only a few days ago, without waiting for an opinion from the Data Protection Council, an amendment to the Telecommunications Act was sent for assessment. The amendment submitted for resolution today even legitimizes unsolicited advertising calls through unclear regulations. "Cold calling" does not only mean calls that lead to the conclusion of a contract, but all unsolicited advertising calls and SMS. In this context, it would therefore be high time to regulate the area of call centers as a whole. During the Viennese election campaign there were many problematic cases of cold calling by call centers. However, this area is left out by deliberately spongy formulations. In this way you do not eliminate grievances, this would have required a general ban on such calls. Now one shifts the responsibility for the conclusion of the contract on to the consumers. In his speech, Strutz also addressed problems with the approval of cell phone masts and criticized the fact that the governing parties had failed to create appropriate regulations. He hoped that the new amendment to the Telecommunications Act will still solve the open questions.
MP Kurt GARTLEHNER (S) contradicted the representation of the MPs of the opposition parties, according to which the law is not far-reaching enough. It does not only apply to competitions, but the criminal provisions apply to all cases of inadmissible advertising calls. There are undoubtedly numerous problems with telephone marketing; very often callers are looking for sensitive consumer data, such as account details. The new legal regulations responded to this. Regarding data retention, Gartlehner said that Federal Minister Gastinger had already signed contracts with the EU in which Austria committed to implementing data retention. With the legal regulation that has now been made, these obligations are being implemented in order to avoid millions in fines for Austria.
It was important to MP Albert STEINHAUSER (G) to clarify once again that cold calling is an aggressive fight. It is therefore important to regulate this area and to increase the penalties for it. However, they did not proceed consistently enough. The majority of the deals that are concluded via telephone boar continue to remain in the dark. It should therefore be stipulated that transactions over the phone can only be concluded if they are then explicitly confirmed in writing. The regulations now in force, however, are very complicated and it is to be feared that in the end the consumers will have to pay the threatened administrative penalties indirectly through increased prices. It is also difficult for consumers to find out their rights and to know about deadlines. The law does not protect them, but the businessmen. The Federal Government's solution was incomprehensible, he could not avoid the impression that the coalition parties were well aware of the problem, but that a strong lobby had exerted pressure so that the new law basically did not change anything .
MEP Karin HAKL (V) said it was necessary to clearly distinguish between criminal rip-offs and serious transactions that are concluded over the phone. That is why an automatic nullity of such telephone transactions is not the best solution. However, this is clearly necessary in the area of gambling and lotteries. The law also created massive improvements in the consumer's right of withdrawal. In sum, it is therefore a balanced law that punishes unacceptable rip-offs, but does not hinder normal business life. Regarding data retention, MP Hakl said that there would undoubtedly have to be re-sharpened later. However, no constructive debate with the opposition was possible in the committee, which is why they stand to approve the law in its present form in order to quickly have effective measures against stalking and to combat the threat of terrorism and child pornography.
MP Sigisbert DOLINSCHEK (B) considered the provisions against cold calling to be inadequate. The right solution must be that contracts can only become valid if you have also agreed to the conclusion of a contract in writing. But incomprehensibly, one could not agree on that. The law brings improvements in some areas, but leaves many problematic areas open. For example, the regulation of the right of withdrawal for consumers is inadequate and formulated in an incomprehensible manner. Something else was provided for in the government agreement. Consumer protection is still inadequately regulated, said Dolinschek and introduced an amendment from his parliamentary group to the present amendment to the Consumer Protection Act, which aims at the general nullity of contracts concluded on the basis of cold calling.
Federal Minister Claudia BANDION-ORTNER was convinced that consumers would be the winners of the amendment to be decided today. From now on, contracts of lottery and prize providers that were concluded via cold calling would be null and void from the outset. The right of withdrawal has also been greatly expanded. The law does not incapacitate consumers, but protect them, Bandion-Ortner stated. One also takes into account the question that the problems do not stop at the national border, but require international regulation. A European solution is already being worked on, said the minister and promised to follow developments in this area closely. On the basis of the European proposal, an effective law will be passed in a few months, she announced.
In his speech, MP Wolfgang ZANGER (F) criticized the Federal Minister for wanting to wait for a "European solution". The legislature is called upon to protect the Austrians and does not have to wait for Europe in an area that can be regulated by oneself. With the amendment to the law to be adopted today, there is broad agreement that it is only a small amendment that brings little actual improvement in consumer protection. Another problem with him is that in the future only a part of contracts based on cold calling will be void. This leaves numerous loopholes open. It is to be feared that the boar will not be deterred, but will only move to other business areas. Reality is not being taken into account here. Zanger suspected that a strong lobby had pushed for the law to be passed in this form. His group will therefore only approve those parts of the law that bring about a real improvement.
Deputy Sonja STESSL-MÜHLBACHER (S) felt it was urgently necessary to put dubious businessmen to the rescue when they use "Cold Calling" to contact unknown net participants, under the pretense of an opinion poll, to spy on their financial situation in order to then supply the unsuspecting people with tailor-made financial products to sell. The MP therefore welcomed the proposed legal innovations for increased consumer protection.
Member of Parliament Karl ÖLLINGER (G) could not see any reasonable reason why "cold calling" should only annul transactions that relate to games of chance, but not those that involve newspapers or telecom contracts. This would be important in order to protect the elderly from trained callers who take advantage of their friendliness and engage them in a conversation with the intention of selling them something. An amendment proposed by the Greens therefore aimed at the nullity of all "cold calling" deals. It is about "cheap rip-off" to prevent.The ÖVP accused Öllinger of putting their lobbyist interests above the protection of consumers.
On the other hand, deputy Johannes SCHMUCKENSCHLAGER (V) warned against throwing out the baby with the bath water when protecting consumers. Games of chance that are initiated by "cold calling" are void in the future. In all other transactions, the right of withdrawal was extended to seven days after receipt of the goods. Schmuckenschlager thought it was just as important to take measures against cross-border "cold calling" in the EU.
MEP Rainer WIDMANN (B) devoted himself to his own motion, which was on the agenda, and looked at the health risks posed by electromagnetic fields in telecommunications. In the Telecommunications Act, limit values for cell phone radio should be anchored in law, Widmann demanded. When erecting cell phone masts, shared use should be made mandatory and strict standards should apply. The protection of young people and children, who are much more sensitive to electromagnetic radiation than adults, should be taken into account as well as the special radiation effects of the C-network and wireless LAN. Widmann considered further research to be necessary and called for citizens to be more involved in shaping the Telecommunications Act.
Representative Josef AUER (S) saw a need for action to protect consumers from dubious business contacts on the phone, but defended the government in the amendment of the Telecommunications Act and the Consumer Protection Act, in his opinion, against unobjective criticism from the opposition and listed the measures that dubious profiteers would take in the future Will be stopped.
Deputy Heinz-Peter HACKL (F) could not see the big hit in the present amendment and particularly addressed the problems of consumers who have problems with writing a resignation request after concluding an undesirable business and prefer to accept disadvantages rather than one to enter into a legal dispute. Since the amendment lacks the necessary protection for consumers, it is actually not worthy of a constitutional state, said Hackl and accused the People's Party of lobbying to the detriment of the citizens.
Representative Johann RÄDLER (V) broke a lance against the criticism of the opposition for the vast majority of serious entrepreneurs and said that the responsible citizens are quite capable of exercising their rights. A car repair shop must be able to call a customer and tell him that an inspection of his vehicle has revealed that another component needs to be replaced. However, Rädler considered it important to take action against international networks which - with the aid of computers - provoke unsuspecting cell phone users to call back to expensive networks.
MEP Christiane BRUNNER (G) turned to the health risks posed by radiation associated with cell phone communications. The MP cited studies on the subject and considered it necessary to reverse the burden of proof of the harmlessness of cell phone radiation. Not the neighbors of radio masts should have to prove that the radiation is harmful to them, but the mobile phone network operators should have to prove the health safety of their operating systems for people, said MP Brunner.
MP Johann HELL (S) also took people's concerns about the harmful effects of cell phone radio seriously. The Telecommunications Act provides for compliance with the internationally recognized limit values set by the WHO. The speaker stated that compliance with these limit values is currently monitored by 74 inspectors in Austria, and he spoke in favor of intensifying the inspections.
Deputy Stefan MARKOWITZ (B) submitted an amendment from his parliamentary group to the Consumer Protection Act, which is aimed at clearer termination rules for contracts. It is also important to put a stop to the "rip-offs" among entrepreneurs, for example when extending advertising contracts "in the small print", he added.
MEP Gertrude AUBAUER (V) underlined the interest of retirees to be protected from unwanted business deals that are initiated with "cold calling". As two thirds of these calls concern gambling, the speaker welcomed the annulment of these deals. In all other businesses, the extension of the withdrawal period increases the protection of consumers. An automatic nullity would affect serious entrepreneurs and should therefore be rejected, said the MP.
In the interests of consumer protection, MP Rupert DOPPLER (F) tabled an amendment from his parliamentary group that aims to annul not only lottery transactions but all transactions if they are initiated by "cold calling".
Member of Parliament Elmar MAYER (S) considered the present provisions to be sufficient to stop fraud when initiating business over the phone. On this occasion, the speaker drew attention to the pressure on the employees in some call centers - on the one hand, they have to meet their goals in business deals, on the other hand, they have to sign declarations with which they take full responsibility for the use of dubious sales practices. The MP also strongly advocated measures against cross-border calls that induce cell phone users to "call back" to expensive networks.
Deputy Johann SINGER (V) welcomed the present amendment, which protects citizens from criminal activities. In addition, it is necessary to make people aware of the dangers that have to be taken into account when initiating business by telephone. MEP Singer also called for an EU-wide solution to the cross-border misuse of cell phones by dubious businessmen.
MEP Rosa LOHFEYER (S) asserted that advertising calls without the prior consent of the person concerned are already currently prohibited, but that they are common practice in order to attract new customers. According to her, the reported violations have increased by more than 100% in recent years. Lohfeyer therefore welcomed the significant increase in the penalty framework and the future ban on number suppression.
MP Josef LETTENBICHLER (V) accused the opposition of doing classic black and white painting and portraying all companies as dubious and all consumers as underage. He introduced an amendment to the Consumer Protection Act, which aims to postpone the effective date.
During the vote, the amendment to the Telecommunications Act was passed unanimously by the National Council. The amendment to the Consumer Protection Act received - after a separate vote - the approval of the coalition parties in the third reading, while the opposition amendments remained in the minority. The resolution attached to the committee report on the Consumer Protection Act was approved by the SPÖ, ÖVP and Greens.
The majority of the National Council took note of the negative committee reports on motion 13 / A of the Greens and motion 689 / A (E) of the BZÖ. (Continued National Council)
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