Trai scraps rule that mandated 100 SMSes at discounted rates

Trai scraps rule that mandated 100 SMSes at discounted rates

New Delhi: The telecom regulator on Wednesday scrapped a rule that mandated an operator to offer only up to 100 text messages at a concessional rate and price anything beyond that at a minimum 50 paise a message.

“The deletion of Schedule XIII thus implies another step of Trai in doing away of the tariff regulation and strengthening the regime of tariff forbearance,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said while issuing the draft Telecommunications Tariff (65th Amendment) Order.

This essentially gives telcos a free hand to fix charges for such bulk SMSes by non-commercial users, and Trai’s practice of forbearance will extend to such messages too. Originally, the specific provision of higher charges over and above a certain threshold of daily text messages had been introduced in Trai’s Telecom Tariff Order, 2012, and was meant to curb the menace of unwanted pesky calls and text messages. However, Trai’s latest move comes as it believes stringent regulations are now in place to thwart such unwanted calls and text messages from telemarketers.

The regulator has cited rules it had issued in July 2018, which had made it mandatory for telcos to seek subscriber consent for receiving unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) from telemarketers. It had also then called for deployment of blockchain—or digital ledger technology (DLT) used to manage cryptocurrencies—to ensure telemarketing messages are sent only to subscribers from authorised entities.

“Considering the comprehensiveness of TCCCPR 2018 in dealing with the menace of UCC, it was felt that the tariff regulation, which has the potential of adversely affecting the interests of genuine non-commercial bulk users of SMS, is no longer required and therefore can be removed,” Trai said.

Telecom companies had, however, called for the continuation of the regime since it acted as a deterrent and a financial disincentive to unregistered telemarketers who always found a way to beat the system.

“The present system, in our opinion, does not have strong enough disincentives for those UTs who would try and game the system and bypass its customer safeguards,” Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), had said in the open house discussion on the subject. “The present limit of 100 SMSs a day would in no way inconvenience any legitimate customer who never reaches the cap of 100 SMSs in a day.”

“Any genuine user who was facing loses due to the rule could have registered as a telemarketer and used the commercial channel to send as many SMSes he wants,” a telco executive who did not wish to be named told ET.

Phase 1 of the DLT implementation went live on Monday in which all telemarketers have to register their entity and header on their respective telco portals.

“This is great as it involves proper background checks and KYC compliance of entities who use the commercial channel but the actual menace lies in the P2P channel which was somewhat controlled by the tariff,” the above quoted person said.

Trai’s order comes at a time when the teclos are facing a lawsuit filed by PayTm which alleged that phishing attacks are rising since telecom companies are not taking adequate measures to block such UCC.

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