Updated below: This just in: the SMS Spam regulations for India will be applicable on the 27th of September 2011, according to a notice from the Telecom Regulator TRAI. This follows an earlier statement from Telecom minister Kapil Sibal last month, that SMS Spam – rather, the incessant unsolicited ‘mobile marketing’ via Bulk SMS providers – will end within six weeks. Looks like he intends to keep his word, though the regulations have been postponed on a number of occasions in the past (see below).

Download the new regulations here. We hope that some common ground has been found between the very restrictive regime proposed last year, and the NDNC which has so far failed to protect customers from being bombarded with spam (for example, I’ve got 17 spam messages over the last two days, mostly from LM and DM numbers)

Highlights of the Sixth Ammendment:

– Regulations to come into effect from 26th Sept: Every Access Provider shall withdraw before the 26th September, 2011 all  telecom resources allocated to a telemarketer except those telecom resources which have been allocated in accordance with the provisions of the regulations.

– ‘140’ Nuber series allotted to fixed line tele-marketers: The DoT has provided the ‘140’ number series to be allocated to telemarketers for fixed line network. Access Providers have to make relevant provisions in their network before
allocation of resources to telemarketers using ‘140’ numbering series from fixed line network.

– Categories defined for opt-ins: A customer may exercise his option to receive messages for the following preferences: 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.

– Time limits: Every Access Provider shall ensure that any commercial communication including SMS, other than transactional messages, is sent to a customer only between 0900 Hrs to 2100 Hrs.

– Definition of Transactional messages: The Authority has also modified the definition of transactional messages considering the practical aspect of business, and has included banks, insurance companies, securities and other financial institutions as well as DTH operators under the category.

– Exceptions: Public authorities who wish to send SMSs in public interest can be exempted from the regulations.

– Mobile Identifier code for tele-marketers: For sending the promotional messages, the telemarketers will use an alphanumeric identifier in the format XY-RZZZZZ where X stands for code allotted to Access provider, Y stands for service area, as specified by the Authority from time to time and R being any digit from 0 to 7, where 0 indicate that the SMS is commercial communication and ZZZZZ  indicates five digit unique identification code allotted to telemarketer by the Access Provider. As and when additional preferences are specified by the Authority, the same will be assigned  number 8 onwards for ’R’.”

– Maximum limit set for no. of SMS sent:  No Access Provider shall permit sending of more than one hundred SMS per day per SIM or three thousand SMS per month per SIM.

– Exemption from daily limit: The Authority may by direction, from time to time, specify the category of SMS which shall be excluded from the limit of one hundred SMS per day per SIM, provided the customer gives an undertaking to the access provider that he shall not use such telephone number for sending any commercial communications and the provider shall enter, in the listmaintained in the National Telemarketer Register, the telephone number, name and address of such customers.

– Time limit for changing preferences for customers: A customer can change his preferences in the NCPR after seven days of making any changes. This was previously kept at three months.

The timeline:
– Dec 01, 2010: TRAI issues SMS Spam guidelines. Our coverage of issues with the SMS Spam regulations here.
– Dec 15, 2010: TRAI postpones SMS Spam Regulations
– Feb 01, 2011: TRAI Postpones SMS Spam Regulations Till March 1st; Changes Number Series
– Mar 07, 2011: TRAI Do Not Call, SMS Spam Regulations Postponed Again Till 21st March
– Mar 21, 2011: TRAI Postpones Do Not Call Regulations Indefinitely
– Mar 25, 2011: TRAI: Announcement On SMS Spam Regulations In 15 Days
– Jul 12, 2011: SMS Spam Regulations To Come Into Force Soon; DoT To Release Landline Number Series For Telemarketers

Recommended Reading:
Why SMS Spam Has Increased In India: Business Model Changes
Preventing Mobile SMS Abuse – Beerud Sheth, SMS GupShup
Rajesh Jain On How To Improve TRAI’s Telemarketing Regulations