Welcome relief

Welcome relief

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken a welcome initiative to put an end to unwanted calls and spam text messages on mobile phones. Mobile phone users are now sitting ducks for perpetual harassment by telemarketers and advertisers. Flats at the cheapest rates, medical services, freedom from cockroaches, stock clearance sales, travel packages, easy loans and discounts are all offered all hours of the day indiscriminately to every one. Useful and necessary messages, especially those relating to personal matters,  are often drowned and lost in the flood of unwanted messages.

The telephone is the personal space of the customer and unsolicited calls and messages are an intrusion into personal freedom.

TRAI has tried to address the problem by setting up a National Customer Preference Registry where customers can register and decide whether they want to receive these calls or messages, and by imposing a limit on the number of text messages that can be sent out from a phone. It had set up a Do Not  Call registry once where telemarketers were supposed to register. But it was not effective because many telemarketers did not register themselves and some shifted to personal phones to send messages. The new system, which comes with harsher penalties, is expected to work better.

It also gives the customer the  choice to block all messages or to receive only those he wants in areas that he needs, like banking or entertainment. But the imposition of a limit of 100 messages per SIM per day and 3,000 messages per SIM per month for post-paid connections carries some problems. Genuine users like schools, banks or airline companies may have to seek exemption from TRAI.

It may create problems, for example, for a school. More importantly, the restriction may be taken as curbing the rights of the customer, who pays for the use of his mobile phone, and the business rights of telecom companies. TRAI argues that the limit is only a reasonable restriction because it has found that the average number of messages sent by a customer is in the range of 30-40 per day. But many send more than them, especially on special days.

TRAI’s move is well-intentioned but it may be necessary to fine-tune the regulations, protecting the customers’ rights and at the same time sparing him the trauma of receiving unwanted information. Effective implementation is important and it will also show how the rules can be improved.

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