Phone companies warned that the regulator’s proposal to impose stiff penalties on telcos alone for failing to check pesky calls and unwanted text messages could lead to mass litigation, while analysts said any regulation that ignored the role of multiple entities in such offences could face serious implementation challenges.
“Slapping huge penalties on telcos alone for failing to stop unwanted calls and messages could invariably lead to litigation and complicate matters, which is why processes need to be put in place to identify the root of the problem and apportion responsibility in a fair manner,” Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told ET.
The COAI represents telco biggies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested penalties on phone companies failing to curb unwanted text messages and calls from registered telemarketers on their networks, ranging from ₹1,000 to over ₹46 lakh, depending on the degree of violation.
The proposed financial disincentives are a key element of Trai’s draft Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018, which was unveiled on Tuesday.
Former Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor said merely penalising telcos is unlikely to solve the problem. “Countries that have managed to successfully tame the menace ensured the advertiser, as in the corporate/individual user of telemarketing tools, is also penalised for such violations and held fully accountable,” Kapoor told ET.
The issue “involves multiple offenders, and any regulation that does not recognise this and primarily imposes stiff penalties on telcos alone would be unrealistic, unfair and tough to implement,” said Mahesh Uppal, director at Com First (India).
A senior industry executive, who did not wish to be identified, said Trai’s draft rules and processes around initiating consent seemed cumbersome and if implemented in their current form, are unlikely to prevent consumers from being hounded by unwanted commercial calls and messages.
Mathews said the key issue telcos are trying to assess is whether the draft regulation will resolve the issue of unsolicited communication.
“We don’t know yet if the suggested mousetrap will be effective but it would obviously be in the interest of both consumers and telcos that the redressal mechanism cited in Trai’s regulation is not overly complex but easy to use and implement, failing which telco call centres could be inundated with calls from droves of dissatisfied customers, defeating the regulator’s endeavours to stem the menace,” he said.
Trai has suggested a mechanism that allows customers to give explicit consent digitally via one-time passwords through third-parties to receive commercial communication related to specific products and services.
Telcos said they are trying to gauge the effectiveness of the regulator’s proposal to use new-age technologies like blockchain to deal with the menace.
Telcos are trying to get a fix on the costs involved in deploying new technologies like blockchain to tackle the problem and whether the benefits are commensurate with the associated costs, said Mathews.
Trai Chairman RS Sharma said this would be the first instance globally of blockchain technology being used on such a scale in the telecom sector.
This technology, he said, would ensure that only authorised entities would be able to access subscriber details when they need to deliver a service.
News Source – ET