India’s telecom regulator TRAI will hold a discussion with telecom and internet service providers and social media companies on the 24th of October to address unsolicited video ads that eat into subscriber mobile data, reports PTI. The discussion will help TRAI understand whether such unsolicited video ads need to be regulated. The regulator will look into video ads that auto-play without user’s consent on independent websites as well as on social media platforms.

What the TRAI will discuss

TRAI will not look into content regulation but rather examine the “non-transparent means in which data usage is happening”. In the first phase discussions, TRAI plans to address issues like:

– How much data is being consumed by auto-play video ads?
– How are users equipped to block these ads?
– Do sites allow users to control viability of such ads?
– Should there be a limit on data usage or video length?

“The seminar is an initial step and will help us to identify issues. For example, can these videos have maximum data consumption or time limit, beyond which the videos should stop unless explicitly chosen by the consumer. Or, are these so hidden in the settings that the general public is now aware of the options available,” the TRAI official told PTI.

The officials however did not comment on whether TRAI is looking to issue a consultation paper on such unsolicited video ads.

Study shows data bills are rising due to video ads

A study conducted by VoIP calling app Nanu in June showed that 35% of users did not bother to click on video ads, but still noticed an increase in data billing. The study counted 14,154 users and claims that 64% of Indian users indicated an increase of more than 10% in their data charges, and 21% noticed an unlikely surge of more than 50% in their data cost. At least 8 out of 10 (81%) smartphone users in India spend below Rs 500 a month on mobile data and 64% of them limit themselves within Rs 300 per month, the study added.

Note that streaming sites like YouTube initially said that it would use un-skippable 6 seconds video ads as an advertising option. However, this has now gone up to 12 to 15 seconds on both mobile and PCs. However, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook provide an opt-out for autoplay videos wherein users can set the feature only when the device is using WiFi.