Following up on its promise of curbing unsolicited SMS and calls, which continue to be a major problem even after the imposition of the SMS Spam Guidelines, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a new directive, asking all telecom providers to take additional measures for controlling SMS spam.
The TRAI has asked telcos to:
- Put a price restraint on sending more than one hundred SMS per day per SIM at a concessional rate. This essentially means that a subscriber is free to send SMSs beyond 100 in a day, however, all SMSs sent beyond one hundred SMS per day per SIM, shall be charged at a rate not lower than fifty paise. The TRAI has given 15 days to telcos for implementing it.
- To restrict unregistered telemarketers from sending bulk promotional SMSs using software applications, Access Providers have been mandated to put in place, within three months, a solution, which will ensure that no commercial SMSs are sent containing same or similar characters or strings or variants from any source or number. The solution will ensure that not more than 200 SMSs with such similar ‘signature’ are sent in an hour. However, registered telemarketers, transactional message sending entities and telephone numbers exempted by the Authority are excluded from this provision. Normal consumers sending non-commercial SMSs will also not be affected by this measure.
- The lodging of a complaint against an unregistered telemarketer call has also been made easier. Now the complaint can be registered through SMS by simply forwarding the spam SMS to 1909 after appending the telephone number and date of receipt of the SMS. Mobile operators will also need to set-up a web-based complaint registering system and a dedicated e-mail address to receive such complaints on spam messages and calls, as per the TRAI order.
- For increasing consumer awareness and to caution against misuse, telcos have been mandated to send SMS to all customers on periodic basis, advising them not to send any commercial communications and informing them about the consequences of misuse.
- The TRAI has also asked telcos to take an undertaking from new customers in the Customer Acquisition Form that they shall not use the connection for telemarketing purpose and in case of using the connection for telemarketing purposes, the connection shall be liable to be disconnected.
The new directive comes after the TRAI’s draft guidelines for mobile spam SMS and calls, in which the regulatory body had proposed customer undertakings and SMS warnings, in addition to fines. We feel that in addition to senders, businesses who’re using SMS as a medium for spamming users, and telcos whose numbers are being used should also be penalised. We do agree that the number of Spam SMS continues to increase, and feel that the imposition of a limit on the number of free SMS, might control it, but some customers who’re heavy SMS users, will feel the pinch. Smartphone users will not be affected much, and apps like WhatsApp will continue to thrive.
Regulating SMS Spam timeline
In September 2011, TRAI had directed all access providers to limit sending of more than one hundred SMS per day per SIM or three thousand SMS per month per SIM and ensure that any commercial communication including SMS, other than transactional messages, is sent to a customer only between 0900 Hrs to 2100 Hrs. TRAI had also relaxed 100 SMS per day restriction for e-tickets, social networks, directories, DTH & More.
In July 2012, the Delhi High Court removed the 200 SMS/day limit through a mobile phone SIM for personal communications, stating that the current SMS spam guidelines infringe the freedom of speech of the citizens, and the conditions imposed upon citizens are not reasonable.
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