On December 1st 2010, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India took a step forward to curb unsolicited commercial communications to Indian consumers from telemarketers using medium such as voice or Short Messaging Service (SMS). The regulation mandates telemarketers to register with TRAI in order to facilitate scrubbing of Do Not Call Registered numbers in India. India has more than 700 million mobile subscribers but only 10-15% is registered with TRAI. This leaves a huge task for TRAI to cover all the users PAN India under National Customer Register Preferences list.
A few terms as described by TRAI and the confusion they create
Telemarketer – “Telemarketer” means a person or legal entity engaged in the activity of transmission of commercial communications.
Unsolicited Commercial Communication–“Unsolicited Commercial Communication” means any commercial communication which a subscriber opts not to receive but does not include, —-
(i) Any transactional message; or
(ii) Any message transmitted on the directions of central Government or State Government or agencies authorized by it
Telemarketer term has been used broadly by TRAI to identify any company which uses voice calls and Short Messages Service (SMS) to inform, solicit commercial transactions to subscribers. The main confusion which arises is the acceptance by Enterprises to identify themselves as Telemarketers for using SMS service for transactional and promotional purpose. Many entities have raised questions at the definition of Telemarketer by TRAI.
Commercial communication in Enterprise Messaging industry includes any communication which helps companies promote their products, services etc. With Enterprise applications based on SMS which help to automate processes within an organization, the term commercial communications does not attend to multifarious usage of SMS in any industry.
As the new regulation mandates enterprises to register online with TRAI and enter into an agreement with telecom operators/service providers by having a refundable security deposit as defined by TRAI. The deposit is to be used against any violation in future which operators would charge to enterprises for sending messages to National Customer Preference Registered numbers. The amount to be charged against first complaint has been increased from INR 500 earlier to INR 25,000 and INR 75,000 for subsequent complains. The amount increases to INR 250,000 for fifth complain and the service for the Enterprise is blocked after six complains. Enterprises can enter into two separate agreements based on the form of commercial communications (both voice calls and SMS) employed to reach subscribers. The time duration for sending commercial communications has also been restricted between 9AM to 9PM.
For Subscribers (How to register)
Subscriber can register by three ways, either by sending SMS to 1909 (E.g. SMS < 0> to 1909) and opting for the options described under 0 to 7, with 0 being opting for fully blocked category (would receive only transaction messages), 1 to 7 categories have been counted under partial blocked condition and would receive messages from the below mentioned sectors based on the options selected while registering.
1 is for BFSI domain, customer opting for this category would receive only Banking and financial related information and promotional messages.
2 is for real estate sector
3 for Education sector
4 for Health sector
5 for Consumer Goods and Automobiles
6 for Communication, Entertainment, IT and Broadcasting
7 for Tourism and Leisure
Alternatively, subscribers can call the customer care of respective operators and also register for NCPR. Telecom subscribers can also call 1909 to register through Interactive Voice Response System.
How to identify a Transaction and promotional message
The new regulation segregate messages as Transaction and Promotional. Each transaction message would have a sender id. of six characters. For example XY-ABCDEF, where X is the code for telecom operator, Y is the telecom circle and ABCDEF is the sender id. as opted by Enterprises with their service providers.
For any Promotional message, the Sender id. Would be alphanumeric as XY-(0-7) ABCDE, where X is the code for telecom operator, Y is Telecom circle, (0-7) is the code for various sectors, and ABCDE is the five character sender id.
Implications for Enterprises and subscribers
- Control in number of SMS received by the end-user, if the subscriber is registered under fully blocked category
- There is no proper categorization for Enterprises to register and define the transaction messages if the purpose is to communicate internally with employees or is a system critical message.
- All telecom subscribers registered prior to March 1st 2011(new date for launch of the service) with TRAI would automatically be moved to fully blocked category.
- Prevention of misuse of sender id. which had moved from alphabetical to numeric over a period of time creating confusion over the sender’s identity.
- As TRAI defines the time duration(9AM to 9PM) for sending messages, the SMS service providers and aggregators (service provider connected to more than one telecom operators for purchasing SMS and selling to Enterprises), the number of messages pushed is bound to get reduced hence less nuisance for subscribers.
As TRAI gears up for launch of service from March 1st 2011, after postponing the same twice, many more implications and amendments would certainly follow in months to come. The regulation creates confusion among Enterprises involved in using messaging services for critical and process oriented communications leaving enough scope for Telecom operators to go back to TRAI and ask for amendments.
For any more clarifications please drop in your comments, and I would revert with an answer.