Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have time and again, introduced regulations with a view to resolve and address the growing issue of UCC (Unsolicited Commercial Communication). Part of the effort was the introduction of Do-not-Disturb (DND), but it was observed that even opting for complete DND could not guarantee respite from pesky calls and SMSes. So, as a step forward, TRAI introduced the “The Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2010”.

The regulation has come into force from 27th September 2011 and accordingly, a limit of 100 SMS per day per SIM, has been imposed. It also includes web portals that allow you to send free SMS, as well as SMS aggregators. This was done with a view to put an end to the use of ordinary numbers for sending commercial communications. According to TRAI, the special SMS packages like 2000 SMS per day etc. offered by telecom operators, were being misused to send UCCs and by imposing a limit of 100 SMS per SIM per day, they feel it will end the menace once and for all.  

Understanding the Regulation
TRAI has created separate categories namely – transactional messages and promotional messages. Transactional messages include those sent by your bank, information sent by registered educational institute to its students or parents, PNR status, etc. and these you will receive even if you are registered for complete DND. As of now TRAI has identified a few business categories that need to send such transactional SMS messages and are therefore exempted from the 100 SMS regulation. These are as follows – 

  • Dealers of the Telecom Service Providers and DTH Operators for sending request for electronic recharge on mobile numbers etc.;
  • e-ticketing agencies for responding to e-ticketing request made by its customers;
  • The social networking sites – Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, LinkedIn and GooglePlus to its members pertaining to activities relating to their accounts based on their verifiable options;
  • Agencies providing directory services – Justdial, Zatse, Callezee, Getit and Askme. 

However, the above mentioned entities will be exempted from the 100 SMS cap, only after they provide an undertaking to the service provider that they will not use the said facility in any manner for sending commercial communications.

TRAI not pulling their punches

TRAI not pulling their punches

Those entities that are affected by the regulation can make an appeal to TRAI and after providing the required undertaking can seek exemption. On the other hand, a registered telemarketer (TM) is exempted from this rule of 100 SMS per day for sending promotional messages. But this shouldn’t bother you if you have registered yourself for DND. This regulation can seriously hurt those who are not registered as a TM with TRAI and are making use of SMS packages offered by telecom operators to send out promotional SMS messages.

How will this make any difference to you? Well as per the rules of TRAI, a registered TM is supposed to periodically scrub its data with the National Customer Preference Register (NCPR). So if you have opted for DND then your number will be deleted from the list or your preferences edited depending on the partial or complete DND you opted for. This ensures that you do not receive UCCs.
End of UCC?
Speaking on the issue, Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) says, “Restricting 100 SMS, Per day, Per SIM is not in the consumer interest. While TRAI has asked the service providers to limit the number of SMS per SIM to 100 per day even for the subscribers who genuinely use SMS (and may require sending more than 100 SMS/Day/SIM) as a mode of communication (non-commercial), it may cause unwarranted hardships to such customers especially in times of urgency as well as a basic communication requirement. Further, it poses a hindrance to individual preferences of the people, thereby violating the right to freedom of speech and expression; creating an artificial barrier which might pose a serious challenge as customers may complain of interference with their fundamental right.

“We believe that regulation is equally effective even without this limit because of two well thought-out procedural checks defined in the regulation. Firstly, as per the regulation, commercial communication can only be done by a registered TM and not by a normal subscriber. Secondly, in case, any subscriber indulges in sending any UCC/activity, which only a registered TM is allowed to perform, the subscriber’s number would be disconnected on the second occasion of such violation. To further strengthen these checks, COAI has also proposed to introduce differential tariff, i.e. differential charges should be applicable should the threshold of 100 SMS per day be exceeded. Such an alternative would be much more rational than capping the 100 SMS per day, since this will not only act as a potential deterrent to any unsolicited commercial communication but may also prove to be a commercially untenable proposition for such telemarketers. Also, the telemarketers could easily use multi-SIMs and organize their daily calls/SMS over these resources so as to ensure that the daily limit is not breached.”  Mathews added.

Cutting down on the avid texters... not necessarily a good thing

Cutting down on the avid texters… not necessarily a good thing

While Shaily Shah, Research Analyst at Gartner, says “If I were to look at the whole history of where this is coming from then consumers were definitely very annoyed as even after opting for DND they were still getting a lot of marketing calls. I think the consumers in general won’t be affected that much because a huge bunch of population has now moved on to smartphones and they are using other applications to get in touch with each other. But having said that it’s not entirely a win-win situation and there are customers who will get affected by it. For instance, traders are complaining that because they have not been able to get the stock tips in time or the investment advice in time to their investors, the amount of trading volumes have wavered. And since this regulation has come into effect only recently everyone is struggling to find a common ground. But looking at the larger picture I can say that the whole mobile advertising industry will become more organized, controlled and targeted now.”     

Ground reality
Just before this a lot of e-commerce sites, DTH operators, deal sites etc. sent out email and SMS alerts to their customers asking them to deregister their number from DND and instead opt for partial DND to continue receiving SMS alerts from them. After which TRAI issued a statement urging customers to be aware of such messages and not to deregister from the NCPR. TRAI stated that such messages were apparently based on misunderstanding of regulations and that the recent regulation will in no way impact transactional messages.

A Facebook group is already voicing their concerns

A Facebook group is already voicing their concerns

While on one hand it may, to an extent, help curb the problem of UCC, the regulation has affected individuals who are heavy text users. College students for instance, largely communicate via SMS and may see this regulation as one that curbs their freedom. Others likely to be affected include corporates who use SMS for internal communications, retailers, share brokers, people with hearing impairment, independent business owners, etc. If it’s of any relief then this limit won’t be applicable on festivals and other specified days. For those who depend heavily on SMS, a possible solution could be the use of dual SIM phones or apps.

Whether or not this move by TRAI proves to be effective in resolving the problem of UCC will be clear in the near future, but as of now it has only given rise to an air of confusion and outrage.

If you need to check if you're on the DND list check out this link here.

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