Shopping marts and retail shopkeepers will be restricted from asking for phone numbers from their customers, a report published in The Economic Times (ET) cited a senior government official from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The unnamed official said that taking customers' phone numbers without their "expressed consent" is a breach of privacy. Taking a customer's phone number will be classified as an unfair trading practice, the report said.
The development assumes significance since most large retailers mandatorily ask for a buyer's phone number as they generate the bill for their purchase and use the data to link it with their loyalty programmes or send promotional messages.
The decision has come in the wake of the department receiving multiple customer complaints about retailers making it mandatory to share their phone numbers. To stop this practice, the Department of Consumer Affairs plans to communicate to all the retailers through industry bodies representing them.
If this were to come to fruition, retailers would have to rearrange their loyalty programmes and stop asking for customers' phone numbers. Talking about the development, the founder of Third Eyesight, Devangshu Dutta, was quoted as saying in the report that this may have implications on the cost for retailers as they use phone numbers to send e-invoices to their customers. This may also result in an environmental impact, he added.