Recently when Rahul Khullar, the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was quizzed on the issue of pesky SMSes, he assured that something would be done by November 5. Sure enough, the TRAI, by way of its official statement yesterday released the 'The Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference (Tenth Amendment) Regulations, 2012', and Telecommunication Tariff (Fifty Fourth Amendment) Order, 2012' in an attempt to better address the niggling issue of unsolicited SMSes. TRAI’s amended regulations aim to “tighten the framework” pertaining to addressing the menace of Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCC), especially relating to commercial SMSes from unregistered telemarketers. 

TRAI acknowledged that concessional SMS packs and tariff plans offered by service providers to bulk SMS users are being misused by unregistered telemarketers for sending promotional SMSes to customers. Now, the body has placed a price restraint on the number of SMSes sent at a concessional rate. A customer can send up to 100 SMSes per day, per SIM card, at the concessional rate. Anyone who crosses the 100 SMS limit will be charged a minimum of 50 paisa more for every subsequent SMS. TRAI has directed the telecom firms to implement the changes within 15 days. 

New guidelines should put an end to pesky SMSes (Image credit: Getty Images)

50p for every SMS beyond 100, per day per SIM (Image Credit: Getty Images)

In addition, access service providers (ASPs) have been directed to ensure that no more than 200 commercial SMSes having the same or similar characters or strings, or variants of each other, are sent within an hour from a source or number. ASPs have three months to implement this directive. In essence, ASPs will have to come up with a solution to ensure that at best 200 SMSes fitting this criterion are sent in an hour. This provision does not apply to registered telemarketers, senders of transactional messages, and other telephone numbers explicitly excluded by the Authority. Also, customers sending non-commercial SMSes have not been included in this new regulation. 

TRAI shares that it is now easier to file a UCC complaint through SMS. The UCC SMS has to be forwarded to the number 1909, along with the mobile number and date of receipt of the unsolicited SMS. In addition, ASPs are required to set up a web-based complaint registration system and a dedicated e-mail address to receive such complaints on UCC.

Interestingly, ASPs have been directed to send SMSes to all customers periodically, advising them against sending commercial communications, while also informing them about its consequences. “Whenever a new customer is enrolled for service, the Access Provider is required to take an undertaking from such customer in the Customer Acquisition Form that he shall not use the connection for telemarketing purpose and in case he uses the connection for telemarketing purposes such connection shall be liable to be disconnected,” TRAI stated further. 

The TRAI has been working on eliminating the menace of pesky SMSes since a while now. Even as the common man continues to be bothered by these pesky SMSes, the nation’s Telecom Minister has shared that he hasn’t been spared either. At the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit, Kapil Sibal shared that he too was a victim of pesky SMSes. “Trai is taking it up (pesky calls/ SMSes issue). I also face lot of problem. Every two minutes I get such SMS. People…used international servers (to send such SMSes), but that also has been stopped. I met TRAI Chairman. He will ensure that this is not going to happen anymore,” he told reporters. 

With fixing a tariff for 100+ SMSes, the TRAI has made yet another attempt to curb the menace of unsolicited communication, especially SMSes. However, one will have to wait to see how this pans out.

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