New Delhi: India’s telecom regulator is trying to clamp down on spam short messages by raising costs for the senders and by using technology.
On Monday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) announced new rules under which telcos have to charge a minimum of 50 paise for every message beyond 100 messages.
The telcos have 15 days to implement this.
Currently, a telemarketer can send an SMS for as less as 6-10 paise a message.
Trai has also asked telcos to, within three months, come up with a software that prevents telemarketers from getting around the 100 SMS curb by using multiple numbers but sending similar messages. This will, the regulator said in a statement, ensure that not more than 200 messages with “same or similar characters or strings or variants from any source or number” are sent in an hour.
The regulator’s moves come around three months after the Delhi high court ruled against Trai’s order limiting the number of SMSes that a mobile user could send in a day to 200 because this was against the spirit of the freedom of speech and expression promised in the Constitution.
The new rules are unlikely to run afoul of the courts given their clear focus on commercial messages.
Mint reported on 31 October that Trai had asked telcos and other stakeholders for their opinion on the issue.
The telecom regulator has also issued a diktat that all new mobile customers will have to give an undertaking that they will not use the mobile connection for sending unsolicited commercial communications. If the subscriber fails to adhere to the rule, or breaks the undertaking, then the connection will be terminated, Trai said.
The new measures are expected to work—at least initially. “The new measures will bring the number down considerably, at least for now. Though we might see a few (messages) getting through just under the limit. In principle, it is in conformity with the differential pricing that we had suggested but we still have to talk about cost and things regarding the software solution,” Rajan Mathews, Director General at the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said.
Telcos have also been asked to send periodic messages to their subscribers advising them of the consequences and telling them not to send such communications. Trai has also made it easier for customers bothered by spam messages to lodge complaints. “Now the complaint can be lodged through SMS by simply forwarding the (commercial) SMS to 1909 after appending the telephone number and date of receipt. Access providers will also establish a web-based complaint registering system and a dedicated e-mail address to receive such complaint,” the regulator’s statement said.
“They are going after the cost aspect which is a good thing, but they have to be harder on the operators and not harass the consumer. The telemarketers are doing their jobs and as long as they stay within the rules, there should not be any problems. They are forcing the marketers to register and therefore making them follow the rules which we are happy about,” said Anil Prakash, president of consumer body Telecom User Group of India (TUGI).