News & Analysis

Facing Unsolicited Calls? Help is Underway

A central ministry, two regulators and the RBI have come together to frame a joint action plan to curb these pesky calls that cause financial frauds

A senior citizen based in Bengaluru got a call, ostensibly from the bank asking for details of their account, ostensibly for verification purposes. But for the fact that the call came on a public holiday, she could have ended up being defrauded of her money. Are you facing similar unsolicited calls? If so, help is at hand. 


Published media reports say that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has seen a sudden spurt in complaints from mobile phone users who received unsolicited commercial calls or unwanted text messages from unregistered tele-marketers and others. Taking a serious note of this spike, TRAI has joined hands to take steps to curb this menace. 


The efforts have begun with discussions in a Joint Committee of Regulators which consists of TRAI, the RBI, SEBI and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. A meeting held in the second week of November discussed several measures to curb such unsolicited calls and text messages, reports the ET. 


A joint action plan is necessary now

The joint action committee was set up to put in place a cogent plan to curb such frauds using India’s vast telecom network and the growing users of mobile telephony. In a statement, TRAI said such calls are a major source of inconvenience to the public and impinges on the privacy of individuals…complaints are reported against telemarketers pushing unwanted text messages.


The regulator said they were coordinating with stakeholders in various ministries to take action that would put a stop or at least reduce these unwanted calls and messages. One of the steps to be taken involves setting up a detection system for such calls, providing digital consent acquisition for tele-marketing, scrubbing of headers and message templates and using AI / ML solutions tools to sift out the unwanted ones.  


TRAI had initiated a solution in 2018, but…

In fact, the problem has been a persistent one and TRAI had issued regulations back in 2018 that made it mandatory for telephony services to seek subscriber consent for receiving such commercial communications from telemarketers. It had also suggested deployment of blockchain technology in the form of digital ledgers to ensure that these messages only get sent to those who subscribe to them. 


These regulations stipulated that enterprising wishing to connect with mobile users had to confirm their identity through a system of headers registered in their name following which telcos had to provide a system to digitally record and revoke the consent of customers. These steps had resulted in a considerable drop in customer complaints to the tune of 60%. 


However, since the regulation mandated registration of all commercial promoters and telemarketers to register on the DLT platform and seek consent for receiving promotional messages, there have been growing instances where this rule is being blatantly violated by small businesses operating out of tier-3 and tier-4 cities of India. 


We now need to wait and see what sort of measures the new committee would come up with though experts say that unless there is some concrete legal action taken against offending companies in this segment, the chances of telemarketing calls being directed only at those who want to receive them may still be a distant dream. 


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