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TRAI Withdraws 2012 Order On Wangiri Calls

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has withdrawn its earlier order on Wangiri calls, following an appeal by some of the service providers.

The issues start with scammers hiring a premium-rate number from a telecom provider and giving missed calls to unsuspecting people. As the latter calls back, they pay a higher charge, and a part of the money goes to the scammer.

Such calls are termed as Wangiri, a Japanese word literally meaning “one (ring) and cut.

In its September 18, 2012, order, TRAI had directed telecom operators not to activate international long distance calling on pre-paid cards without taking the user’s explicit consent. The regulator had also told operators to take pre-paid users’ permission for ISD services within 60 days. Industry body COAI had approached the telecom tribunal seeking quashing of the TRAI order, citing revenue loss from genuine long-distance callers.

In its latest direction, dated April 22, the regulator has decided withdraw its earlier order. The COAI has proposed a technical solution aimed to tackling the menace of such calls.

In India, where nearly 97 percent of users are on pre-paid connections, international long distance facility provided as default.

While ministry sources confirmed the development, they also said the issue is currently before the TDSAT, and the tribunal has to take a final call.

TRAI had been getting complaints from users about calls and SMS from international numbers informing them about winning prizes or lotteries. The scamsters encourage consumers to call a premium tariff number, at times attracting charges as high as Rs. 200 a minute, to claim the prize.

Proposals given

On January 4, the COAI, international long-distance operators, and Indian operators presented a set of proposals to address this.

The industry was also to initiate further technical discussions on these proposals. Among the proposals were identifying country codes with substantially high termination rates but minuscule traffic, suspected as Wangiri. The operators wanted certain country codes to be included as ‘Restricted ISD category’.

The COAI, in a letter to TRAI, said: “The app-based internet calling for international calls, and the product offering in the market having shifted to bundled voice and data for usage with specific need of talk-time for any international call, have already led to very little inclination or possibility of consumers responding to a Wangiri call.”

“It is further submitted that our member-operators have implemented the Pre Call Announcement (PCA) on the identified codes/countries to inform the subscribers regarding the higher charging. This has further reduced the chances of customers calling the Wangiri numbers,”the association added.―The Hindu Business Line

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