Trai targets pesky ads: Pay more for 100+ SMSs


NEW DELHI – In a fresh bid to curb unwanted text messages spanning sauna belt to apartments, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Monday announced new measures, including hiking the tariff for sending over 100 SMSs a day and an easier system to lodge complaints.

Although it decided against levying a penalty that it had proposed earlier, officials said the proposal had not been given up yet. But the immediate focus is on SMSs sent from phones that account for a bulk of pesky promotions. Trai said within a fortnight, telecom firms must ensure that anyone crossing the 100 SMS mark a day would have to pay at least 50 paise more for every subsequent message.

Stating that Trai had adopted a “zero tolerance” approach towards pesky messages, a senior official said, “This menace will not be tolerated. This is the first of the many measures we plan to take.”

The new guidelines—the tenth amendment to the rules on commercial communication or unwanted messages—propose to crack down on messages sent using software applications. Within three months, telecom operators have been asked to put in place a system that blocks messages with same or similar characters. The proposed mechanism will ensure that at best 200 messages with “similar signature” are sent in an hour. Once this limit is breached, the service provider can block it.

“We have arrived at the figure of 100 SMSs after a lot of consultation process,” the Trai official said, adding that ordinary phone users will not be impacted by the measure. “Our analysis shows that on an average, a person sends two SMSs a day and 47 in a month. The limit we have prescribed is much beyond this.” In any case, registered telemarketers, banks and airlines will be exempted from the new rule.

A senior official said the aim now is to control cheap bulk SMS packs. Currently, mobile service providers offer concessional SMS packs and tariff plans for bulk SMS users. “These SMS packs and tariff plans are being misused by unregistered telemarketers to send promotional SMSs to consumers. To prevent unregistered telemarketers from misusing such SMS packs or tariff plans for sending bulk promotional SMSs, a price restraint has been placed,” Trai said.

In addition, the system of lodging complaints has also been eased with consumers required to merely forward the pesky message. Telecom operators have also been asked to put in place web-and email-based mechanisms to enable subscribers to lodge complaints. The regulator clarified that the measure would “in no way” put a cap on the number of SMSs one can send in a day as those beyond 100 can be sent at non-concessional rates.

“Whenever a new customer is enrolled for service, the access provider is required to take an undertaking from such customer in the Customer Acquisition Form that he shall not use the connection for telemarketing purpose and in case he does so, such connection shall be liable to be disconnected,” Trai said in a statement.

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