Trai has introduced a financial disincentive into the existing regulation to force telecom operators to follow the government norms for customer verification, in a bid to enable the Trai system to catch illegal or unregistered telemarketers faster. Photo: Mint (Mint)
Trai has introduced a financial disincentive into the existing regulation to force telecom operators to follow the government norms for customer verification, in a bid to enable the Trai system to catch illegal or unregistered telemarketers faster. Photo: Mint
(Mint)

Onus of stopping pesky calls, SMSes lies with service providers: Trai

Telecom regulator’s move a departure from the past when it had focused on putting curbs on telemarketers

New Delhi: The telecom regulator has put the onus of stopping the misuse of telecom networks for illegal spam messages and calls on the telecom service providers—a departure from the past when it had focused on putting curbs on telemarketers.

“It is the duty and responsibility of the service provider to ensure that such misuse does not happen in their network," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a statement on Thursday.

Trai said it had observed that telemarketing activities were encouraged by service providers by providing attractive SMS packages and by allowing bulk/multiple connections without following the CAF (customer acquisition form) directives issued by the department of telecommunication.

Since 2011, Trai has tried various ways to curb telemarketes. The steps include forcing them to register with the regulator and use an improved database of subscribers, who have opted not to receive such commercial messages, called the do-not-disturb registry. The telecom regulator even introduced an opt-in system where a subscriber could opt to receive communications of a certain kind for a certain period of time, or not at all.

Other measures taken include limiting the number of messages a mobile subscriber could send in a day, but this was overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Trai has now introduced a financial disincentive into the existing regulation to force the telecom operators to follow the government norms for customer verification. This would enable the Trai system to catch illegal or unregistered telemarketers faster.

“If on verification of a complaint it is found that the UCC (unsolicited commercial communications) has been sent by a subscriber who is not registered as a telemarketer, the service provider shall be liable to pay financial disincentives of 5,000 on each complaint," Trai said in its new rules.

Telcos will also have to submit a list of bulk connections sold, in the previous month, by the 15th of every month.

The telecom regulator has also targeted telemarketers skirting the rules by sending unwanted messages with another contact number as part of the content. This means that if a subscriber receives an unwanted message from one number, asking the subscriber to call another number, then both entities that own both numbers stand to lose any telecom resources they are using. Earlier, only the owner of number from which the spam communication was sent would be liable to lose access to the telecom resources.

Organizations marketing their products through retailers, distributors and franchisees are responsible for the acts of their agents," Trai said in reference to the new regulations. Most people are relieved that the operator is finally being made responsible for curbing spam. “This is exactly what people have been suggesting for years. The operators should have been responsible a long time ago," said Achintya Mukherjee, who heads a consumer action group called the Bombay Telephone Users Association. “The move should be much more effective but what remains to be see is whether Trai will follow through."

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