Pesky calls: Trai makes registration of telemarketers, subscribers mandatory

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday notified revised regulations to deal with pesky calls and spam, making it mandatory for telemarketers to obtain subscribers' consent for receiving calls and messages.

It has also directed telecom service providers to ensure that commercial communication takes place only through registered senders. Violations of the rules will attract penalty ranging from Rs1,000 to Rs50 lakh, based on the type of offence.
The Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018, notified on Thursday, proposes to curb the problem of unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) through registration of senders, registration of headers (that segregate different types of messages), as also registration of subscribers' consent.
The new Trai regulations make it mandatory to register senders (businesses and telemarketers). Through an easy registration processes, the business will be able to assert their identity and build trust of the clients. This diminishes the ability of unknown entities reaching their customers with calls and messages that are fraudulent or otherwise of dubious nature.
Trai has also suggested registration of subscribers' consent before telemarketers start making calls rather than surreptitiously obtaining such consent overriding the stated preference of the subscriber.
Trai said the new regulations are intended to provide the subscriber with complete control over their consent and the ability to revoke the consent already granted, at their option.
Using headers intelligently to segregate different types of messages, businesses will be able to help their clients manage, delete or store communications related to OTP's, balance enquires, flight alerts, special offers, etc, Trai said.
Trai has also introduced the concept of registered templates for both SMS and voice communication to prevent deliberate mixing of promotional messages into the transactional stream. This will give relief to subscribers who feel targeted by unwanted communication today.
The new regulations provide for fine-grained control over preferences, including such options as the time window in which to allow specific types of unsolicited communication.
Under the new regulations telemarketers will have to adopt Distributed Ledger Technology (or blockchain) as the `RegTech’ to ensure regulatory compliance while allowing innovation in the market.
Telecom service providers should establish and arrange the framework, which is legally backed by regulation that enables compliance through innovation in technology solutions that are demonstrated in a regulatory sandbox.
While ensuring enhanced controls, it should offer new options for all entities to perform their functions and to carry on their businesses efficiently.
Trai has already explored, with encouraging results, the use of machine learning technologies to classify messages in its DND 2.0 App. These regulations would enable development of newer tools based on artificial intelligence or other technologies for an easier subscriber experience in setting preferences, governing consent and reporting violations.
Trai said under the platform approach espoused by it, where functions are unbundled and access to information controlled based on permissions, all such solutions would henceforth be possible for third-parties to develop. And they would be able to demonstrate the efficacy and security of their solutions in the controlled environment before products are released for wider use.
These measures would also bring in the necessary flexibility and speed necessary to combat the spammers who continually change their tactics and morph their identities to escape detection, Trai said.
The telecom regulator had on 29 May 2018 notified draft regulations on UCC and these were finalised after considering written submissions and the
inputs received during an earlier open house discussion held on 15 December 2017. Trai said it has examined all responses received from stakeholders while formulating the final regulations.
The earlier regulation on UCC was notified in 2010 and action has since been taken against entities violating the rules and, according to Trai, this has led to disconnection of as many as 1.4 million telephone connections, besides other penalties.
However, the problem of unwanted and unsolicited commercial communication (spam) and fraudulent calls continue to pester telephone users.
The issue has been red-flagged by other sectoral regulators, like Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), who have sought Trai's assistance in controlling these activities.
Trai said both imposters and fraudsters have taken advantage of loopholes in verification of identities by putting distance between themselves and the telecom service providers through multiple intermediaries controlled by weak and unverifiable agreements. Further, with the adoption of newer technologies, such as automated calling, the spammers have acquired the ability to reach ever larger target groups.
The new regulations have been drafted considering the need for a complete overhaul of the mechanism to effectively deal with the nuisance of spam experienced by the subscribers. The regulations provide for:
The regulations have been crafted to address the legitimate needs of all stakeholders, it added.