The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued (pdf) an amendment to its Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR) that will allow telecom operators to provide two-way transactional SMS applications using short codes with 5 as the starting number.
Transactional messages are messages sent by banks, financial institutions, credit card companies, airlines and railways etc., to pass on necessary information about using the product or service, for example bank balances or PNR status. The present rules only allow transactional messages to be alphabetical, containing exactly 6 characters in uppercase, for example BP-SBIINB.
Two-way communications through the current alphabet-only header is not technically feasible, requiring numeric header support. According to TRAI, it had received a number of requests from local and international entities to modify the current rule, to allow for interactive communications through transactional messages by enabling numeric support, which it has done through the current amendment.
TRAI mentions that, as a safeguard, penalties for misuse of such transactional messages will be double than that of normal transactional messages. Additionally, if international telecom operators are found violating the rules further penalties will apply.
TRAI had previously issued The Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations in 2010, which had come in to force in 2011. These rules came in the backdrop of the need to have SMS Spam regulations and included allocating fixed lines to telemarketers, defining opt-in categories, time limits, definition of transactional messages among other things. TRAI had then issued additional directives to tackle SMS spam from International number in 2012.
These directives did work, as the total number of Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCC) complaints filed by consumers with their respective telcos declined to 5,27,457 complaints for the period September 27, 2011- April 15, 2013, registering an average 27,760 complaints per month, down from 47,454 prior to introduction of these regulations.
Corrigendum: Article has been modified to better explain what two-way transactional SMS means.