India’s Telecom regulator TRAI yesterday issued regulations covering the unsolicited (spam) calls and text messages communications to subscribers. This follows the failure of the Do Not Call Registry – just 340, 231 complaints, a few hundred from me – but isn’t quite the Do Call Registry that was expected. What it does, is provide a framework for registered telemarketers to operate in, and limits alternatives available for unregistered telemarkters, while at the same time, addressing only those subscribers who want to opt out of unsolicited communication. Download the regulations here (PDF), and the press release.
The leeway that telemarketers have is now very limited: just desserts for abusing the system, and in particular, offering a loan to India’s Finance Minister in the middle of an important meeting. There also appear to be a few issues, and a few unintended casualties (especially in the enterprise mobility space), which we’ll explore in another post. For now, some important details we’ve culled out from the regulations:
- Subscribers can now only send p2p SMS’, but not buy SMS packs that allow more than SMS’ a day, and all packs that allow more than 100 SMS’ per day will not be available for renewal. This has been done to discourage unregistered telemarketers from setting up modem farms, bypassing the telemarketer registration framework. If someone sets up a modem farm, then they’ll have to pay P2P SMS rates.
- Single number for registering, deregistering and complaints, across telecom operators, for both wireline and wireless: 1909.
- Two options: you can either choose to register for the fully blocked service, which promises no messages, or opt to receive promotions for specific categories, in the partially blocked mode. Those already on the Do Not Call Registry will be transferred to the Fully Blocked list of the National Customer Preference Register (NCPR)
- The request for addition to the NCPR needs to be completed within 7 days. Earlier, it was 45 days for the NDNC.
- Complaint details required: Need to mention the following details of the message: the originating telephone number, date, time, and a description of the message / call
- Commercial communication via SMS can take place only between 0900 Hrs to 2100 Hrs
- Subscribers can opt for commercial messages from specific segments.
1 – Banking/Insurance/Financial products/credit cards
2 – Real Estate
3 – Education
4 – Health
5 – Consumer goods and automobiles
6 – Communication/Broadcasting/Entertainment/IT
7 – Tourism and Leisure
SMS START <option> to subscribe, STOP <option> to unsubscribe
- Once you register / change your preference, you can’t change it for three months.
- Telecom operators need to take action on complaints within seven days
- No subscriber, who is not registered as a telemarketer under these regulations, shall make any commercial communication. Hence, there’s a limit of 100 SMS’ per day for non-telemarketers, which will force telemarketers to register to offer services to clients. The registration is valid for three years, and this forces an unregulated (almost rogue) industry into the regulatory environment.
- The National Telemarketer Register shall contain the following details of the telemarketer: registration date, application number, registration number, fees deposited, telecom resources allotted to a telemarketer, number of notices received (with dates), date of blacklisting (if applicable).
– Deposit and Fee: Every telemarketer shall, for registration with the Authority, pay Rs. 9000 for customer education and Rs. 1000 for registration. It shall also deposit Rs. 100,000 as a refundable security deposit. However, fines will be deducted from this deposit.
– Blacklisting: Telemarketers will be blacklisted on the basis of a six strike policy (or failure to furnish an additional security amount in case of unsolicited messaging/calls). There’s a fine for each of the six strikes too: starting with Rs. 25000 for the first strike, then Rs. 75000, Rs. 80000, Rs. 120000, Rs. 150000 and Rs. 250000
- A separate numbering series 70XXXXXXXX will be allocated for telemarketers, allowing customers to ignore calls
- For messages telemarketers need to use an alpha-numeric identifier:
1st : telco code
2nd: service area code
4th: any single digit (1-7) with the digit indicating a specific category of SMS (as mentioned above)
5th-9th: a unique five digit unique identification code provided by respective telco to the telemarketer
- An agency appointed by the TRAI shall update the NCPR with the data received from the telcos (Provider Customer Preference Register) twice a week on every Tuesday and Friday from 0000 Hrs to 0600 Hrs. The additions and deletions in NCPR shall be available for download by telcos and the telemarketers from 0700 Hrs to 1300 Hrs on every Tuesday and Friday respectively.
For Telecom Operators
- Need to maintain their own Provider Customer Preference Register, which will have the following details for each subscriber: name, telephone number, the date and time of the request by the subscriber; the details of the preference made by the subscriber; the unique registration number
- Every telco shall communicate a unique registration number to the subscriber via SMS, within twenty four hours of the request, after verifying the subscriber details. The details will have to then be recorded in the Provider Customer Preference Register. If the details are incorrect, then the telco needs to inform the subscriber, through SMS, within twenty four hours, the details of errors noted, advising a fresh request.
- The NCPR should be updated within twenty four hours of registration or deregistration
- All telemarketers and telcos will be permitted to download the complete National Customer Preference (NCP) data from the NCPR website for which a unique user name and password will be provided.
- Cannot provide to any person, other than a registered telemarketer, any tariff plan or SMS package in any form permitting sending of more than one hundred SMS per day per SIM except on ‘blackout days’.
- Telemarketer numbers, for sending transactional message, should not have facility for receiving incoming call or SMS.
- Telemarketers on the black list shall be disconnected by every telco within 24 hours
- Every telco shall, before providing any telecom resource to a telemarketer, verify the details furnished by the telemarketer in its application form, the registration number issued by the Authority and comply with the subscriber verification guidelines issued by the Department of Telecommunications.
- No telecom resource should be provided is provided to a telemarketer who has been disconnected or blacklisted
- Telcos need to ensure that before sending any SMS to a telecom subscriber, the telemarketer scrubs the telephone number of the subscriber with the database received from National Customer preference register
- Originating Telco needs to filter messages, so that that no telemarketing SMS, other than SMS opted by the subscriber is sent to him
- Every Originating telco shall filter all voice calls received through the telecom resources allocated to the telemarketers to ensure that no commercial voice call is made to any subscriber, registered with the National Customer Preference Register.
- Complaints: on receipt of a complaint, the Terminating Telco shall immediately acknowledge the complaint, verify its correctness as per the available Call Detail Record (CDR) within 72 hours, and forward the complaint to the Originating Telco. The originating telco shall within 72 hours of receipt, investigate the nature of call or SMS, and issue a notice to the telemarketer, with the details of the spam call or message. It then needs to inform the Terminating telco, deposit the amount of the fine with the TRAI, and update the action taken by it in the National Telemarketer register.
Transactional and Service Messages
- No telco shall send any commercial communication, either directly or by mixing such communication with service communication, through voice call or SMS or Unstructured Supplementary Service Device (USSD) unless specifically opted, to a subscriber whose name is registered in the National Customer Preference Register.
- The telemarketer shall not to send any unsolicited commercial communication and will not mix any promotional communications with its Transactional Message sent to a subscriber. A transactional message means an SMS containing:
- Account related information sent to its customer(s) by the Bank or financial institution or insurance company or credit card company or telco
- Information given by Airlines or Indian Railways or its authorised agencies to its passengers regarding travel schedules, ticket booking and reservation
- Information from a registered educational institution to parents or guardians of its students