India’s telecom regulator TRAI needs to look, once again, at the usage of the transactional SMS pipe for promotional messaging. Last year, the TRAI, following reports highlighting the misuse of the (cheaper) transactional SMS pipe for promotional messaging had said that it would ban telemarketers that use the transactional pipe for promotional messaging. While the regulator can do little to control SMS Spam originating from SIM cards bought for mass messaging, except increase interconnect charges, the use of the transactional pipe for messaging can still be controlled. Transactional messages meant to be sent by companies to their customers following the completion of a transaction, and are typically related to ticketing, bookings or purchases, or a users account status. Messages such as those below, from e-commerce players Jabong, Yebhi and Myntra, are clearly promotional in nature, and are not transactional messages, in our opinion:

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In fact, there are several complaints on Twitter about Myntra (see this), Jabong (see this) and Yebhi (see this) spamming users.

The TRAI regulation on telemarketers using the transactional pipe states that the telemarketers they will be barred from sending both promotional and transactional messages. I have used Jabong once (last year), hence my details are in their database. However, that doesn’t give them the permission to send promotional messages to me. Even in case of a registered company, which is allowed to send transactional messages, there are specific guidelines to follow, which, appears, haven’t been followed: there is no consent sought, no opt-out information, and there was no request from the subscriber (me), which can be verified.

Perhaps it’s time the TRAI also created SMS Spam guidelines which cover marketers (not just bulk SMS companies), and telecom operators.

Hiking charges, like what the TRAI did in May this year, is clearly not helping, and these messages are despite the fact that I’m on the Do Not Call registry. The complaints process is now clearly not working: even when one does file a complaint these days, there is no response on any action taken.

If you’re receiving promotional messages via the transactional pipe, please do leave a screenshot in the comments.

USSD Spam

It also appears that there is now spam which one doesn’t quite know how to complain against: On USSD (and to me this appears to be USSD based, so correct me if I’m wrong), I received the following messages a couple of days ago:

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There is no identification information here, so even if one does want to file a DND complaint, one doesn’t quite know how to do that. In my opinion, the telecom operators need to be held accountable for allowing this, because, while SMS can originate from any telecom operator, USSD pushes can only come the host telecom operator. I’m on Airtel, but this again begs the question – how can one register a complaint when the message is via USSD? Can users be expected to file screenshots? How does the regulator verify that screenshots aren’t fake?