In a consultation paper, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has suggested that unregistered telemarketers sending unsolicited commercial communication be charged Rs 500 per message. After 10 such instances, the marketer's phone connection will be disconnected.
All that mobile users are required to do is forward the unwanted message to a dedicated number - 1909 - and action will be initiated against the errant SMS sender. Web and email-based complaint registration is also on the anvil.
The plan is to get access providers to put in place a system that blocks the delivery of unsolicited SMSs that carry similar signatures and come from a number that sends more than a specified number of messages every hour. Even banks or travel portals that send messages related to transactions would now have to hire registered telemarketers, the regulator suggested.
In recent months, mobile users have seen a resurgence in messages from real estate agents, travel agents and even those offering to send bulk SMSs, which Trai said came from unregistered telemarketers who used 10-digit numbers.
One of the reasons behind the surge, a senior officer in the regulator agency said, was the high court order lifting the ceiling of 200 text messages a day, a decision which the regulator has decided to appeal against in the Supreme Court. "While everyone has a right to free speech, no one has a right to encroach upon anyone's privacy and time," the official said.
Although the regulator and the government have moved from a system of Do-Not-Call register a few years ago, it was revamped last September with mobile users given the option to register to fully block or partially block pesky messages. Besides, only registered telemarketers could call.
While the messages did stop, they resumed within a few days as marketers discovered a loophole and started routing messages from other countries. The Trai official, however, said the regulator had plugged the gap, referred to as modem farming, as it had asked service providers to scrub bulk messages coming from foreign shores.
Through the fresh consultation paper, which may be accepted in its present form after receiving comments, the regulator is trying to focus its attention on domestic source of the pesky messages.