Unsolicited Commercial Communication

The pesky commercial calls and messages are a major irritant to the Indian mobile customers. TRAI has implemented a regulation –  Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communication Regulations, 2007 – to control unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and introduced National Do Not Call  (NDNC) registry. This has greatly reduced the number of unsolicited phone calls but the volume of SMSs has gone up substantially high during the recent period.

NDNC registry

The NDNC Registry will be a data base having the list of all telephone numbers of the subscribers who do not want to receive Unsolicited Commercial Communication. After the establishment of NDNC registry, Telephone subscriber (Landline or mobile) who does not wish to receive UCC, can register their telephone number with their telecom service provider for inclusion in the NDNC. Telecom Service Provider shall upload the telephone number to the NDNC within 45 days of receipt. The Telemarketer will have to verify their calling telephone numbers list with the NDNC registry before making a call.

Penalty on registered telemarketers

To discourage the telemarketers who make calls to the numbers registered in Do Not Call List, a provision has been made whereby Rs.500/ – shall be payable by the telemarketer to the service provider for every first unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and Rs.1000/- shall be payable for subsequent UCC. There is a provision for disconnection of the telemarketer telephone number / telecom resource if the UCC is sent even after levy of Rs.500/- & Rs.1000/- tariff.

Penalty on service providers

In case of non-compliance to the Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations, 2007, the Service Provider is also liable to pay an amount by way of financial disincentive, not exceeding Rs.5000/- for first non-compliance of the regulation and in case of second or subsequent such non-compliance, an amount not exceeding Rs.20,000/- for each such non-compliance.

Penalty on unregistered telemarketers

If the telemarketer is found to be unregistered, then the service provider shall disconnect his telephone number/telecom resources after giving a notice of not less than seven days.

How to register in NDNC registry

The customers who would like to register their request for NDNC registry may dial 1909 or SMS to 1909 with key words ‘Start DND’ for registration and ‘STOP DND’ for de-registration.

Demand by consumer forums

It is suggested by some consumer forums that TRAI must impose a termination charge of 5 to 10 paise per SMS to raise the cost of bulk SMS and discourage the operators who continue to sell bulk SMSs.  

Arguments for bulk SMS

Bulk SMSs are proved to be faster, cost effective and have the maximum reach to the right audience. A major advantage of SMS advertising is that it can be ensured that it reaches the end user. In the case of television or newspaper advertisement, there is no guarantee that the message reaches and seen or read by the target group.

Bulk SMSs are sold at 3 paise per call and it contributes to approximately Rs 20 crore telecom revenue every month in India. These bulk SMS services are managed by SMS aggregators and SMS gateway providers.

However some of the operators are pointing out the positive use of such bulk SMSs, particularly when used in emergency situations or when used by closed user groups like parents of school children.

Conclusion

As these SMSs are sent with the prefixes of the telecom operator it is easy to identify which operator is promoting these bulks SMSs. Recently Airtel has announced its decision to exit from bulk SMSs.  It is expected that other major operators may also follow Airtel. Bulk SMS is a classic case of negative innovation. When the telecom operators wanted to add value, it ended as a nuisance to their customers.