The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has taken a stringent step against pesky calls and unwanted messages by mandating norms for telecom subscribers. The regulator has set penalties starting from Rs 1000 to Rs 50 lakh per violation depending on the severity. Previously, the regulator had talked about the obsolescence of the previous DND measures, despite which the problem of pesky calls and unwanted messages couldn’t be dealt with efficiently. Now the authority has urged the telecom operators to use blockchain technology for dealing with pesky calls and has also made it compulsory for the subscribers to take consent from customers before sending promotional messages.
Notably, Trai has already disconnected 1.4 million numbers and blacklisted 460,000 numbers in the country and despite that the regulator has received over 2 million complains till date. This staggering figure pushed the watchdog to trickle down to the idea of tight regulations. However, experts are of the opinion that Trai’s method of approaching the problem is likely to be costly and inefficient.
As per an ET report, the regulator has charted out a deadline of six months for the telecom operators to stop extending services to those handsets which do not allow autonomy about messages and calls the users receive.
The regulator in its official statement said “The network cannot operate totally independently of the user equipment. Such elements of the equipment that affect the performance of the network or the experience of some or all its users may be regulated as necessary in the discharge of Trai’s statutory obligations.”
Related to a similar matter, the regulator has already locked horns with Apple since the Cupertino-based has refused the development of a DND software saying that it would jeopardise users’ privacy. On the other hand, Trai has constantly persisted for a DND app on Apple’s iOS platform.
The regulator said “The objective of the regulation notified today is to effectively deal with the nuisance of spam experienced by the subscribers… Blacklisting and introducing signature solutions in the network helped initially but despite taking various measures, complaints are on the rise and the problem is not fully under control.” Trai further said that the norms which it has suggested are “user-friendly and automated”.
In contrast, operators are of the opinion that this proposal has been made without a cost-benefit analysis in mind. The adoption of the proposed technology by the carriers would mean upgradation of the entire back-end operation of these operators, an expense which the companies cannot afford during an already financial troublesome time. The Cellular Operators Association of India which represents all big telcos like Reliance Jio, Idea Cellular and Bharti Airtel said: “We remain concerned about whether the regulation addresses the issues of unsolicited calls origination from unregistered telemarketers.” They further added, “The timeframes for implementing, especially given the requirement to implement Distributed Ledger Technology (blockchain), which has not been implemented by any other regulator, appears too stringent and difficult to achieve.”
Trai, on the other hand, remains mum on the issue and continues to back its recommendations which it had kept open till June 18 for comments. In addition to the penalties, the regulator had specified that access providers must make arrangements to facilitate customers by providing ways and means to record consent and revocation related to commercial communication and promotion material on the network. The terminating telco may charge up to five paise for each commercial message from the originating network, the regulator highlighted.
With the clash between the telcos and Trai intensifying on the matter of pesky calls, it remains to be seen what new method the industry adapts to tackle the problem.