Telcos, TRAI Yet To Rein In Telemarketers; More Complaints In 2018 Than In 2016

Notwithstanding a slew of measures taken by the telecom regulator to deal with the menace of unsolicited commercial communications (UCC), or pesky calls and messages, the number of complaints received by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been on a rise over the last three years.

In 2018, a total of 369 complaints were received – more than double of 161 in 2016. According to data provided by the Ministry of Communications in the Lok Sabha, during 2019, 155 complaints have been received till July 10.

“For addressing the menace of UCC effectively, Trai had reviewed the framework for controlling UCC and laid down a revised framework controlling UCC on July 19, 2018 through the Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018. These regulations are under implementation and have paved the way for effective control of UCC,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications, said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha last month.

TRAI directive on pesky calls could act as deterrent

Aiming to check telemarketing calls, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked telecom companies to submit monthly status reports from September about complaints they receive on pesky calls. With this, the telecom regulator has initiated action on setting up a monitoring system for the new telecom framework, which aims to crack down on unwarranted telemarketing calls and messages. Given that the complaints on pesky calls in 2018 increased significantly from 2016, the Trai directive is a much needed step in the right direction.

On August 6, the regulator asked telecom firms to submit status report over complaints regarding pesky calls on monthly basis starting September, setting in motion a monitoring system for the new framework that aims to check unwarranted telemarketing calls and messages.

“ The Authority hereby directs all access service providers to submit … compliance reports, with effect from month ending September 2019, on monthly basis, and within ten days from the end of each calendar month,” the telecom regulator said in its latest directive.

In addition to the revised framework for controlling pesky communications, Trai had also launched a ‘do not disturb’ app for users to lodge complaints regarding such calls and messages that would be forwarded to the concerned telecom operator by the regulator.

“As per the regulations, a customer, who has registered his telephone number for not receiving UCC, may make a complaint about receipt of UCC to his service provider. The service provider from whose network the UCC had originated has to take action on the complaint as per the regulations.

“However, some of the consumers have also made complaints to Trai. Since as per the regulations the service providers have to take action on complaints, the same are forwarded to the service providers for necessary action,” Prasad noted in his Lok Sabha response.

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“Since September 2011, based on consumer complaints, the service providers have so far disconnected telecom resources of 18,19,470 Unregistered Telemarketers and blacklisted 5,89,589 such unregistered telemarketers. Also a penalty of Rs 4,16,45,000/- was deducted from the security deposit of registered telemarketers and deposited with Trai. Further, 16 registered telemarketers were blacklisted,” he added.

As per the regulations, if UCCs originate from unregistered telemarketers, on first violation, a warning is issued and a temporary usage cap is imposed during investigation.

On the second instance of violation, the usage cap is imposed for a period of six months.

On third and subsequent instances of violations, all telecommunication resources of the sender are to be disconnected for a period up to two years and the originating access provider puts the sender under blacklist category, during which period no telecom resource is provided to the telemarketer by any other service provider.—Indian Express

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