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TRAI urges banks, insurance providers and others to seek fresh consent for marketing messages

The Digital Consent Acquisition (DCA) facility will work as a unified consent-seeking platform where customers will be able to easily provide and revoke consent for commercial calls and messages.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has requested various entities sending commercial communication such as banks, insurance companies, trading companies, and others to onboard the digital consent acquisition system (DCA) in a recent press release. In June this year, the authority directed telecom companies to develop a DCA facility that would act as a unified consent-seeking platform where customers could easily provide and revoke consent for commercial calls and messages 24×7. The final date to onboard the entities sending out commercial communication (referred to as ‘principal entities’ in the directive) is November 30. With the new system in place, any consent that the entities had previously acquired would be rendered null and void.

How is DCA different from the current consent management system: 

In its press release, TRAI points out that the current consent management system requires all principal entities to obtain and maintain consent. As such, telcos have no way of confirming whether a user truly consented to the messages being shared with them. Under the DCA, users’ consent data will be shared on the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Platform, established under Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, (TCCCPR)2018, for scrubbing by all telcos. The DLT platform is currently used to verify message templates for registered telemarketers.

Once the DCA is in place, a common short code (127xxx) will be used for sending consent-seeking messages. These messages will contain the purpose and scope of consent, as well as information related to the revocation of the consent. Telcos would also be required to develop a facility to register the unwillingness of customers to receive any consent-seeking messages.

Why it matters:

TRAI has made several attempts throughout this year to curb spam calls and messages. In May, the authority mandated that telecom companies must put in place artificial intelligence (AI) spam filters for calls and messages. Then soon after, it directed telcos to stop the misuse of message templates registered under the DLT.

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One of the key concerns surrounding the effectiveness of TRAI’s spam-curbing measures is that telecom companies have no incentive to crack down on spam because they financially benefit from the messages being sent across their network. Even under the DCA system, telcos will be required to confirm whether a user has actually consented to a promotional message or not, which means that given the financial incentive to keep spam messages a part of the system, telcos might not perform this task as accurately as they should.

Despite these concerns, we have recently seen TRAI disincentivizing telcos for failure to control spam with the authority fining Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Rs. 2.8 crore and Rs 1.01 crore. These fines could encourage telcos to be more proactive about verifying consent and about keeping spam off their networks in general.

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