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Imposed financial disincentives on telcos for not stopping UCC, TRAI to HC

Telecom regulator TRAI has told the Delhi High Court that it has imposed financial disincentives ranging from Rs 34,000 to Rs 30 crore on telecom companies like BSNL, Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone for not preventing unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) over their networks between April to June 2020.

Financial disincentive of Rs 30 crore for failure to curb UCC on its network in April, May and June was imposed on state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) along with an additional Rs 10 lakh for non compliance of Code of Practices, TRAI has told the high court.

It has further said that financial disincentives to the tune of Rs 1.33 crore, Rs 1.82 crore, Rs 1.41 crore and Rs 14.99 lakh were imposed on Airtel, Vodafone, Quadrant Televentures and Reliance Jio, respectively.

It has said that these amounts have to be deposited with it by the companies within 20 days from November 23 when the orders were passed.

The submission by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) came pursuant to the court”s direction in September to start taking action in accordance with law against unregistered entities and those persons not complying with its regulations to curb the problem of UCCs.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice PrateekJalan had given it eight weeks time to take action and had warned that failure to do so could lead to imposition of cost on it.

The court”s direction had come while hearing a plea by One97 Communications Ltd, which runs online payment platform Paytm, alleging that telecom operators are not blocking “phishing” activities over various mobile networks.

Phishing is a cyber crime where people are contacted by e-mail, phone calls or text messages by someone posing as a legitimate representative of aorganisation to lure them to part with their sensitive data, including banking and credit card details and passwords

In its affidavit filed pursuant to the court”s direction, TRAI has said that financial disincentives of Rs 1.73 lakh, Rs 15.01 lakh and Rs 34,000 have been imposed on Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd and V-Con Mobile and Infra Pvt Ltd, respectively.

TRAI has said that initially show cause notices were issued to the telecom companies for failure to meet laid down benchmarks and curb UCCs and after completion of due process the financial disincentives were imposed on them.

It has also said that according to the monthly performance monitoring reports submitted by the telecom companies, they have taken action against unregistered telemarketers in accordance with the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preferences Regulations (TCCCPR) 2018, which was notified by the TRAI to curb problem of UCCs,

TRAI has said that according to the performance monitoring reports, the access providers have imposed usage cap in more than 1.9 lakh cases during investigation of complaints and thereafter, warning notices were issued in 1.15 lakh cases, usage caps were imposed in around 77,000 cases and 17,000 connections were disconnected.

Besides that more than 2.23 lakh headers of various principal entities have been registered till November 23.

Examples of some registered headers are — Paytm, PYTM, PTM, IPAYTN, PYTKYC
Paytm had earlier told the court that unregistered players are operating on a large scale leading to frauds to the tune of Rs 1-2 crore being committed against its customers every month.

Paytm, in its plea filed through advocate KarunaNandy, has claimed that millions of its customers have been defrauded by the phishing activities over the mobile networks and the failure of the telecom companies to prevent the same has “caused financial and reputational loss” to it for which it has sought damages of Rs 100 crore from them.

Paytm has contended that the telecom majors are violating their obligations under the TCCCPR 2018. PTI

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