More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Advertising / branding

Trai to crack down on data-chewing unwanted video ads

26 August 2016

Auto-playing video advertisements are not only an annoyance, but apart from being unwanted, a lot of them use up precious data without our knowledge and push up our data bills.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has taken this under consideration and is planning to take action against auto-playing video ads across platforms, from smartphones to broadband-connected PCs.

Speaking to The Times of India, Trai chairman R S Sharma calling it a serious problem, said that he is concerned with the involuntary downloads which are consuming data from internet packs. ''Trai officials are working on this, but I think we should work at a much more furious rate. We will be able to come up with some response quickly,'' he said.

With the increase in internet speeds, the rate of consumption has also gone up. With things such as auto-playing video advertisements, which do not require the consent of the consumer, it is the consumer who ends up paying the price. Industry analysts have long been citing unnecessary and hidden downloads behind higher data usage than the consumer expects.

The issue of unwanted video downloads was also highlighted in a survey conducted by online mobile app Nanu which arrived at this conclusion after speaking to 14,154 mobile customers from across 23 states in India (See: Indian smartphone users end-up paying more: Nanu survey). According to the survey's finding, there was a high possibility of consumers facing hidden data charges. Around 42 per cent respondents were not aware that video ads consume data without your clicking on them and around 35 per cent respondents had noticed an increase in their data billing without altering their usage much.

Using ad-blockers is an effective way to cut out the unwanted advertisements. According to a report in Scroll, around 122 million people in India use some sort of ad-blocking feature to surf the internet without viewing advertisements. India is also the fastest growing markets for mobile phone adblockers, according to a Pagefair report.

But of late, a lot of websites do not load if users have an ad-blocker activated. They force users to disable the ad-blocker before displaying content. A lot of the time, these video ads play with the audio muted, so there is no way for the consumer to even realise that there is a video ad playing somewhere on the current web page. Not to forget those annoying rollover ads which not only ruin your reading experience, but also shoot up data usage (60% of Indians find mobile ads annoying; pop-ups the worst: survey). Social networking site Facebook is quite popular among Indian users. Of late its push towards video content and now with Facebook Live activated for all iOS and Android devices, the auto-playing video content is surely going to see a spike. Facebook is also testing a new feature which allows all auto-playing videos to play back with sound turned on. While there are ways to disable auto-play, it requires action from the users. For a lot of users who are not aware of this, it translates into more data usage on every Facebook visit.

According to R S Sharma, Trai is making plans to speak to the various parties concerned to find a solution. Sharma hinted that if there are technological solutions to resolving the matter, then Trai will work with the technology companies concerned to bring these solutions into effect.

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