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Telcos not complying with short code usage rules, says TRAI

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has directed all telecom operators to publish the details of SMS based services offered and tariffs of such services on their home page, and ensure that any changes are immediately updated.

The regulator has said that telecom operators have been violating the instructions issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in regards to the use of short codes, special characters and the provisions of the National Numbering Plan, though it hasn’t revealed the exact nature of these violations.

Telecom operators have also been asked to submit information regarding each short code to TRAI within 10 days of every quarter-end, starting with the quarter ending March 31, 2015.

In November 2006, DoT asked all telecom operators to use level 5 for allocation of short codes, which essentially means that all short codes had to begin with 5. In December 2006, guidelines for the same were released, which are:

–  Telecom operators to prefix ‘5’ in front of all existing 4-digit short codes used for SMS-based services within their networks.
– Migrate all existing 5 & 6-digit short codes to 5-digit short codes and ensure that the first or first two digits were 5.
– All short codes to be a minimum of 5-digits long.

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Also, while using short codes or special characters for providing premium rate services, like voting in TV shows and gaming services, telcos were required to inform the consumer about the charges of the service through a voice alert in English and one local language.

Telecom operators not respecting TRAI directives

In November last year, TRAI had to step in and direct all telecom service providers to ensure that all pay-per-use value added services (VAS) pre-loaded on SIM cards are activated only after obtaining explicit consumer consent. Telcos were given till January 13, 2015 to comply with this directive.

Back in July 2013, TRAI had mandated that for activation of mobile value added services, across types of scenarios – Outbound Dialer (OBD), Voice Portal (IVRS), WAP, Mobile Internet, USSD, SMS and Telecalling, or any other method – telecom operators needed to provide a system which takes a second consent from the customer before it is enabled. In case of incorrect activation, the telcos needed to refund the amount within 24 hours of the customer request. Additionally, TRAI had also directed that a common toll-free deactivation number (155223) be set up and that all deactivation requests should be processed in 4 hours.

Our Take

It’s high time that TRAI took some action against telecom operators that have consistently ignored such directives. Also, why hasn’t TRAI clearly mentioned what consequences telecom operators are likely to face in case they don’t comply. Since telcos have time and again failed at self-regulation, it would be great if a system to automatically seek consumer consent or inform consumer about charges of premium services is developed.

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