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TRAI asks telecom companies to deploy consent driven anti-spam tech

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has directed telecom service providers (TSPs) to quickly rope in banks, financial institutions, business entities, insurance firms, trading and real estate companies into its new authorisation system aimed at curbing spam calls and commercial text messages.

The telcos, however, say a sluggish response from businesses, and operational challenges are slowing down the process.

The new Digital Content Authorization (DCA) – a unified platform to seek, maintain and revoke the consent given by customers for receiving commercial communication from businesses – has been mandated by the sector regulator to rein in exponentially rising cases of spam and excessive tele-calling in the country.

In the prevalent system, customer consent is obtained and maintained by Principal Entities (PEs) such as banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, trading companies, business entities, and real estate companies, among others.

The problem often starts when these businesses purchase bulk short messaging services (SMS) from a telemarketer to send SMS texts to its clients and customers.

Telemarketers have to be registered on the Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) platforms run by telecom service providers.

As a result, telecom service providers such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and BSNL, classified as Access Providers (APs), could not check the veracity of consent. Importantly, there is no unified system for customers to provide or revoke consent.

According to officials, the new DCA system will enable the consent data to be collected on the DLTs quickly.

“Once a customer launches a complaint against a particular business, a telecom company can easily check the consent data and scrub the consent provided by the said customer earlier,” an official said.

Cold feet
TSP officials said PEs need to agree to the new norms and begin the process for them to be onboard the new system.

“The government guidelines have come months back, and we have also intimated the PEs. But many are yet to get back,” said an official with a public sector TSP.

One of the reasons behind this may be that many PEs are unhappy with the new system which is widely expected to see many users revoking their consent for all kinds of business communication, another official said.

Last week, Trai again nudged PEs to speed up the process by stressing that after implementing DCA, the existing consents, acquired through alternative means, shall be rendered null and void and fresh consents will have to be sought by all PEs through digital means only.

The regulator said the earlier consent given by users was null and void with the implementation of the DCA facility for seeking and receiving permission from customers online.

History so far
Back in March, the Business Standard had reported DCA was fast emerging as the favourite among a long list of technologies being researched by Trai. Officials had then confirmed it was expected to be rolled out first on a pilot basis by the end of May.

Finally issued under Trai’s Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, 2018 (TCCCPR-2018) in June, the DCA was set to be implemented in a phased manner within 2-months.

Initially, PEs belonging to banking, insurance, finance and trading-related sectors shall be taken on board to initiate the consent acquisition process.

In the first phase, only subscriber-initiated consent acquisition has been permitted by Trai. Subsequently, PE-initiated consent acquisition shall be permitted.

What is DCA?
DCA will take customers’ consent for the brands or companies they would like to receive communication from. It will also expedite the process of receiving consent from consumers on Digital Ledger Platform (DLT) platforms.

DLT platforms are digital systems for keeping and managing the record of sender IDs and templates run by telecom companies.

Businesses need to register on DLTs by submitting relevant details and get access to exclusive headers and message templates — keywords denoting a business or brand that pop up when a phone user receives a message. Those who don’t will be marked as unregistered telemarketers, and barred. Business Standard

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