Update (Nikhil adds): Something about this data doesn’t seem right. Just 786 complaints against spammers in 2012, and over one lakh disconnections? Spam is still prevalent, and if people aren’t filing complaints, then it’s probably because the process of filing complaints is cumbersome. I’ve filed less complaints this year because the process of filing a complaint with Airtel (incidentally, I’ve received two marketing calls from Airtel itself in recent times) is cumbersome. Frankly, a low number of complaints for an issue that is still pervasive shouldn’t be seen as an indication of reduction in spam.
Earlier: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued notices to 1,48,095 subscribers and disconnected 1,37,052 subscribers violating its SMS Spam regulations. This announcement was made by Milind Deora, Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
The minister noted that TRAI had received 786 complaints pertaining to unwanted and pesky calls and text messages for the year 2012-13 (as of November 27, 2012). This is a significant increase from 465 complaints in 2011-12, 412 complaints in 2010-11 and 515 complaints in 2009-10. He also mentioned that 2830 telemarketers have registered with TRAI as of November 29, 2012.
TRAI Regulations: Last month, TRAI had issued a new directive asking all telecom providers to take additional measures for controlling SMS spam, which continue to be a major problem in the country even after the imposition of the SMS Spam Guidelines. Among the measures mentioned in the directive include:
- Putting a price restraint of 50 paisa per SMS sent after the completion of the initial 100 SMS per day per SIM.
- Directing access providers to put in place 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. TRAI had also directed Access Providers to send SMS to their subscribers on a periodic basis advising them not to send any commercial communications if they were not registered with TRAI as a telemarketer. Registered telemarketers, transactional message sending entities and telephone numbers exempted by the Authority were however excluded from this provision.
- Directing access providers to take an undertaking from new customers in the Customer Acquisition Form that they shall not use the SIM purchased for telemarketing purpose and in case of using the connection for telemarketing purposes, the connection shall be liable to be disconnected.
- Making the process of lodging of a complaint regarding Unsolicited Commercial SMS easier by allowing consumers to simply forward the spam SMS to 1909 after appending the telephone number and date of receipt of the SMS. TRAI had also directed mobile operators to set-up a web-based complaint registering system and a dedicated e-mail address to receive such complaints on spam messages and calls.
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.
In December 2012, the Supreme Court stays the order which had quashed the TRAI’s directive of limiting the number of SMS to 200 per day, per SIM.
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