To curb the ever-growing menace of pesky promotions and unauthorised advertisements by telemarketing firms spamming message inboxes, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked telecommunication service providers (TSPs) to scrub their database clean and block all unverified telemarketer accounts.
In a key move, it said entities involved in message transmission should be identifiable and tracked, if required.
On Thursday, Trai asked TSPs to re-verify all registered headers and message templates on their distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform within 30 days and block all unverified headers and message templates within 60 days.
In two separate directives, Trai said all promotional messages need to be sent through registered telemarketers using approved headers and message templates on their DLT platforms.
DLT platforms are digital systems for keeping and managing the record of sender IDs and templates. In India, they are run by TSPs such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam.
Businesses need to register on DLTs by submitting relevant details and get access to exclusive headers and message templates. These are the particular keywords denoting a business or brand that pops up when a phone user receives a message.
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The problem often starts when these businesses, legally classified as principal entities, purchase bulk short messaging service (SMS) from a telemarketer to send SMS to its clients and customers.
Telemarketers have to be registered on the DLT platform.
Immediate steps mandated
The telecommunication sector regulator said it has observed that headers and message templates of principal entities are misused by some telemarketers.
For the time being, Trai has asked TSPs to immediately deactivate temporary headers after the time duration for which such headers were created, and ensure that content variables in the message template do not have the flexibility to insert undesired content.
To remove confusion among recipients of messages and prevent their misuse, no lookalike headers (headers which are similar by virtue of combination of smallcase or largecase letters) are to be registered by access providers in the names of different principal entities, it said.
“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts over the past few years, unregistered telemarketers have flourished on the networks, while many registered telemarketers have often flouted norms. The latest directions were arrived at only after we allowed TSPs time to clean up their platforms,” said a Trai official.
Rogue telemarketers targeted
The TSPs have been asked to strictly bar all telemarketers, who are not registered on the DLT platform, from handling the message template once and for all.
They also have to mandatorily ensure that promotional messages are not transmitted by unregistered telemarketers, even those using 10-digit telephone numbers of their own.
Officials, however, refused to specify whether access service providers would face any action if they do not comply within the stipulated time frame.
TSPs now have to share details of rogue telemarketers among themselves and stop them from sending any kind of commercial communications through their networks, observed Trai.