Trai’s do-call registry vetoed

Trai’s do-call registry vetoed

New Delhi: The idea of an opt-in registry for unsolicited sales calls to mobile phones in place of the existing opt-out registry may not see the light of day.

In an open house discussion hosted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday, the stakeholders present, including telecom service providers, telemarketeers and clients such as insurance companies, opposed the creation of a do-call registry.

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They instead suggested increasing the penalty for errant telemarketeers and making the do-not-call (DNC) registry more efficient by enabling it to filter registered numbers in real time.

In the existing system, telemarketeers have to submit their database of cellphone numbers to the registry for scrubbing—a system in which registered mobile numbers are removed from a telemarketeer’s database. But uncontrolled disregard for the rules and a flood of complaints have forced Trai to revisit the norms and look for alternative systems.

“Though the existing system has done a lot in terms of reducing the number of unsolicited calls, there are a number of problems with the existing system as it is not very efficient. The scrubbing mechanism goes down for eight hours out of 24 and is able to process very few numbers at a time," a senior executive with a telecom service provider said on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“There are a number of problems. How do we find the errant telemarketeers is just one problem," Trai chairman J.S. Sarma said, referring to the fact that only a few telemarketeers are on the DNC registry.

In the present system, set up in 2007, telemarketeers have to register with Trai to get access to the DNC registry before they can scrub their database.

Many stakeholders at the Trai meeting said creating a do-call registry would kill the telemarketing industry—a $2.5 billion (around 11,700 crore) business employing around 550,000 people, according to them.

Fewer than 70 million of the 650 million mobile users in the country are registered with the DNC registry, according to a Trai consultation paper.

In its reply to Trai’s request for comments on the proposed change, India’s largest mobile phone firm Bharti Airtel Ltd said the existing system is restrictive as it allows telemarketeers to check only 3.9 million numbers on the DNC registry from a single login.

Representatives of the country’s second largest telecom firm, Reliance Communication Ltd, told Trai a do-call registry would be a virtual ban on telemarketing, which they said was an acceptable trade practice and a budding industry.

One suggestion was for adding a clause in the IT Act allowing Trai to penalize firms that hire telemarketeers who are not registered on the DNC.

The idea for a do-call registry was to enable telemarketeers to be more effective without being a nuisance, said a senior Trai official, requesting anonymity. “The consumer could opt-in for real estate advertisements when looking for a house or opt-in for hotels and restaurants when in need and then they could opt-out," he said. “But how do we implement such an idea has to be looked into."