Indian court directs regulator to enforce regulations curbing UCC via SMS

Photo by AntonioGuillem |

India’s telecom regulator has been ordered by the Delhi High Court to ensure “complete and strict” implementation of the regulation by the country’s telecom operators to curb unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) via short messaging service or SMS which cybercriminals used to dupe digital payment users in the country. 

A two-member bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of the Delhi High Court has also directed all four Indian telecom operators — Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea to ensure that they strictly comply with the regulation.

In response to a writ petition filed by Paytm, the court said lax implementation of the regulation could lead to legal action.

“We direct Respondent 2 (TRAI) to ensure complete and strict implementation of the TCCCP Regulations of 2018 and other related regulations issued from time to time to prevent unsolicited commercial communications over the networks of the TSPs…we expect Respondent 2 to strictly implement the regulations and in case of any violation, action would be initiated in accordance with the regulations,” the bench said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had brought the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preferences Regulations (TCCCPR) for telecom operators to curb UCC in 2018.

The strict and proper implementation of the regulation will block Bulk SMS capacity to unauthorized telemarketers and will only be available to registered telemarketers (RTMs).

Under the regulation, all business entities that send promotional and transactional messages must register their headers and content on a blockchain-based platform operated by telcos. This process is aimed at preventing spam.

Paytm and its parent One97 Communications (OCL) had last year filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court seeking legal, policy regulatory directive to restrict fraudsters’ access to the bulk SMS packages sending fake messages and calls impersonating Paytm companies.

The petition highlighted that such fraudulent calls and SMSes result in a financial loss to its customers and severely damages the reputation of Paytm as a brand. It had alleged that telcos were not monitoring the issuance of SMS headers to telemarketers, allowing fraudsters to manipulate customers by sending messages that appeared genuine.

Paytm had also sought damages of Rs 100 crore ($13.51 million) from telcos.

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had then supported Paytm and filed an intervention representing many Payments System Operators (PSOs) to support stringent implementation of TCCCPR.

Fake SMS headers are typically disguised as coming from payment companies and banks to secure private details from customers to gain access to their bank accounts.

In November last year, TRAI had penalized Indian telcos for not preventing phishing attacks via short messaging service.

“…the decision will go a long way in safeguarding millions of Indians in the country who make digital payments and other online transactions. We strongly believe that all of us including regulator, government and access providers have to come together to fight the menace of fraudulent calls and SMSs in the country,” Satish Kumar Gupta, CEO & Managing Director, Paytm Payments Bank Ltd said in a statement after the decision. “We are sanguine that Telcos will abide by the court’s order in true spirit.”

Related article: SMS phishing fraud: telecom regulator penalizes Indian telcos

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