India’s TRAI reaches out to ensure new bulk SMS rules are implemented

Annoying mobile spam. Image by Milkos | Bigstockphoto

India’s telecom regulator (TRAI) has reached out to key ministries, government bodies and various industry associations to ensure seamless implementation of its new regulations to curb unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) through short messaging service or SMS.

The latest outreach activity follows a major disruption in various services that require SMSes and OTP generation. On March 8, the regulation came into effect, leading to Indian telcos strictly implementing TRAI’s regulators, which led to outages for banking, credit card payment and other services because principal entities or companies that send out bulk, commercial messages failed to comply with regulatory standards.

As per reports, 40% of daily SMS traffic, close to 1 billion, was dropped on March 8 when the regulation came into effect.

Following the disruption, the regulator has requested other regulatory authorities such as the Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority to “impress upon entities under their jurisdiction to ensure full compliance.”

The regulator has now written to representative bodies for telecom, Information Technology (IT), Banking and financial services and insurance (BFSI), among others, urging them to inform their member organisations about new regulatory requirements. It has also reached out to chief secretaries of states on the issue.

TRAI officials told news wire service Press Trust of India that the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which provides technology support to governance services, has assured the regulator about its readiness to assist government bodies and authorities ahead of the March 31 deadline.

On Friday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a list of 40 “defaulter” principal entities that were not fulfilling its regulatory norms on bulk commercial messages, despite repeated reminders. Notably, large private and public sector banks like HDFC Bank, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank were part of the defaulters’ list.

Players like Samsung, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), Delhivery and various SMS aggregators like Gupshup and Route Mobile were also found flouting the regulator’s rules.

The telecom regulator said that these companies, also known as principal entities, failed to comply with the rules despite getting ample time to register and test their SMS content.

The body also ordered Indian telecom operators to resume filtering of messages and block non-compliant SMS traffic from April 1, as “consumers cannot be deprived of the benefits of regulatory provision any further”, it said in a notice.

The regulator said that defaulting entities should comply with the regulations and requirements by March 31, 2021, to avoid any disruption in the communication with customers from April 1, 2021.

“As sufficient opportunity has been given to principal entities/ telemarketers to comply with the regulatory requirements and that the consumers cannot be deprived of the benefits of the regulatory provisions any further, therefore it has been decided that from April 1, 2021, any message failing in the scrubbing process due to non-compliance of regulatory requirements will be rejected” by the system, TRAI had said in a statement recently.

As per the regulations, user entities sending commercial text messages must register message headers and templates with Indian telecom operators.

Once registered, the SMSes and OTPs sent by user entities like banks and payment companies are checked against the templates registered on the blockchain-based platform under a process called SMS scrubbing. Any SMS traffic which fails to pass the rigid filters will not be delivered as per the regulation.

Last month, India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad ordered officials to take strict action against telemarketers and individuals involved in harassment of telecom subscribers. He also directed the authorities to set up a redressal system for mobile customers facing harassment through pesky calls and messages.

The new system will allow financial fraud victims to lodge complaints in real-time either through an SMS or by using an application, which the Indian government will soon launchthe Indian government will soon launch.

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