Pesky callers have had a free run for too long. That may be about to end

The CCPA is meeting industry stakeholders this week to finalize a mechanism to end unsolicited commercial calls and messages. (Bloomberg)
The CCPA is meeting industry stakeholders this week to finalize a mechanism to end unsolicited commercial calls and messages. (Bloomberg)

Summary

  • Telecom service providers, individuals and errant firms responsible for unwanted calls may face punitive action once the new mechanism is rolled out.

NEW DELHI : Unwanted promotional calls from unregistered phone numbers may attract stringent action in the near future, with the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) preparing to crack down on the practice.

The CCPA is meeting industry stakeholders this week to finalize a mechanism to end unsolicited commercial calls and messages, two people aware of the matter said. At the meeting, the CCPA will present case studies from foreign countries that have successfully controlled such calls.

“The do-not-disturb (DND) facility of the telecom department covers only number series specifically allotted for commercial calls," one of the two people said on the condition of anonymity. “However, there is no such rulebook for unwanted calls being made from 10-digit numbers registered in the name of individuals. It falls under unethical trade practices, and the CCPA has the mandate to act against it."

Telecom service providers, individuals and errant firms responsible for unwanted calls may face punitive action once the new mechanism is rolled out. This will be the first time penalties are proposed against telcos for violating privacy and breaching consumer rights, the second person added.

Queries emailed to the consumer affairs secretary, spokespersons of the consumer affairs ministry, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, HDFC Bank and Bajaj Finance remained unanswered.

The CCPA, which reports to the consumer affairs ministry, has already formed a committee to frame guidelines to end unwanted commercial calls, comprising officials from the telecom and financial services departments, housing ministry, banking, insurance and telecom regulators, representatives from the Cellular Operators Association of India, telemarketing companies and consumer organizations.

Consumer rights activist Arun Gupta said making unsolicited promotional calls should be made a criminal offence. “The guidelines need to be very stringent to deal with pesky calls, as they violate consumers’ basic rights. The provisions for fines should be hefty to discourage errant firms from making unsolicited calls," Gupta said.

In response to an emailed query, Bankbazaar.com chief executive Adhil Shetty said, “Rules that protect consumers, thwarts bad actors and frauds, and enhanced consumer safety are good for the industry. We have and will adhere to regulations. We follow Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) guidelines on calling. We only call engaged customers who have consented to a contact."

The CCPA has the authority can issue guidelines to prevent unfair trade practices and protect consumers’ interests. Recently, it penalized several IAS coaching institutes for breaching the trust of candidates through misleading advertisements.

Formed in July 2020, CCPA also readying to roll out e-court services in all 35 state consumer dispute redressal commissions (SCDRCs) and 10 benches of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).

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