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TRAI and Apple continue talks to resolve DND app impasse

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will continue to work with Apple to break the deadlock in talks over introducing its Do Not Disturb (DND) application (app) to Apple’s iOS Store, senior officials have said.

The iPhone maker removed the app from its app store in September last year over privacy concerns, despite Trai rules mandating that device manufacturers restricting access to the DND app would face penalties.

Senior officials have now told Business Standard that the telecom regulator will not cancel the registration of Apple devices, as was suggested earlier, and the issue may be resolved in a few months.

Trai runs the National Customer Preference Registry, earlier called the National Do Not Call Registry. Users can register themselves on the registry to legally opt out of unsolicited commercial communication (UCC). The DND app can be used by consumers to report UCC within three days of receiving it.

But to curb the growing menace of UCC, it had updated the Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, 2018 (TCCCPR-2018), and unveiled stricter norms to crack down on UCC.

It had ordered access providers or telecom service providers such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea to ensure that customers stop receiving UCC within 24 hours of them officially complaining about it. As part of this, the regulator had ordered access providers to ‘derecognise’ devices that stop the installation of the DND app from their networks.

This had raised a cloud of uncertainty over millions of Apple devices in the country. The company has argued till now that it does not allow any app developer to get access to the call and message logs of users, permissions for which are a prerequisite for the DND app.
“The issue is under discussion with the company. It is not possible to suddenly de-register so many devices as that would lead to major inconvenience for the public,” one of the officials said.

At the end of the July-September quarter, Apple had a more than 6 per cent share in India’s smartphone market, according to market researcher Counterpoint India. Over the quarter, Apple saw its highest ever quarterly shipments from India, crossing 2.5 million units, registering 34 per cent year-on-year growth, the company had said.

The DND app has an intelligent spam detection engine for SMS to assist the subscriber in reporting, crowdsourcing of data about offending messages, and calls to speed up detection of unregistered telemarketers. It also provides updates about action taken on complaints.

The app is, however, available on the Google Play Store, where it has received criticism from Android users for being riddled with bugs and technical glitches. Officials have said those issues are being resolved at the earliest, and the app would be accessible by all android users by March next year.

The DND App is also accessible through the Centre’s Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) App.

Growing menace
TCCCPR rules mandate that on the third instance of violation, telemarketing connections will be disconnected for a period of up to two years and blacklisted.

In a testimony to the spiralling problem of spam calls and messages, Trai received 904,000 separate complaints against unregistered telemarketers in 2022, up from 855,000 complaints in 2021. Official data showed the problem has intensified after the Covid pandemic, as there were only 302,000 complaints in 2020.

Consumers can block all commercial communications (calls and SMSes both) or can selectively block UCC from specified seven categories. These include banking & finance, real estate, education, health, consumer goods & automobiles, communication & broadcasting, and tourism by registering their preference in the DND registry.

Registering also ensures that DND activation only stops unwanted third-party commercial calls and not SMS alerts from the user’s bank, online portals and services, or personal calls from others. Business Standard

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