India - No more pesky calls, SMSes from Sept 27: TRAI

NEW DELHI: After missing four deadlines, the rules slated to bring relief to millions of customers from pesky telemarketers and unwanted commercial text messages will be implemented from September 27, sector regulator Trai said on Monday.

From the last week of September, mobile phone and landline users registered with the National Customer Preference Registry - a modified version of what was earlier called Do Not Call Registry - will be free from these phone calls and text messages.

Trai had announced the new rules last year under which telemarketers, who call customers registered with Do Not Call, would face fines of 75,000 for the first violation and up to 2.5 lakh for the sixth offence, following which they would be blacklisted for two years. However, this has not been implemented yet.

A common and easily identifiable number series for calls and SMSes emanating from telemarketers wasn't available, which initially delayed implementation.

"DoT has provided the '140' number series to be allocated to telemarketers. Access providers (operators) have to make the relevant provisions in their network before allocation of resources to telemarketers using the '140' numbering series from both mobile and fixedline networks," Trai said.

Ernst & Young's telecom industry leader Prashant Singhal, however, feels the delay in implementation has impacted consumers and in future will impact telecom companies too. "It's a good thing this has happened, but a little too late.

It's very irritating to get such calls and text messages from a consumer's perspective. Telcos will feel an impact on revenues, by 1-2% which is around $200-300 million on an industry level, that come from originating and terminating charges," he said.

State-run telcos, BSNL and MTNL, will have to install new equipment to transmit the 13-digit numbers to landlines, most of which are equipped with caller-identification.

India has over 850 million mobile and over 34 million landline subscribers. Under the new rules, mobile users will have a choice of blocking only telemarketing voice calls while choosing to receive SMSes.

When receiving text messages, they can specify an area of choice like banking and financial products, real estate, education, health, consumer goods, automobiles, communication and entertainment, tourism or leisure.

What's more, customers can change these preferences after seven days compared to the earlier restriction of three months. "This will give more control to consumers.

They will be able to choose the kind of messages," says Idea Cellular's chief service delivery officer, Navanit Narayan, who added that the telecom company has been preparing to adhere to the guidelines set by the sector regulator.

Stricter enforcement of penalties is likely to reduce cases of consumers getting unsolicited calls and text messages despite being registered with the Do-Not-Call registry, the Idea executive added.

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