Telcos to pay Rs 5-20K fine for every unwanted call

18 Mar, 2008, Times News Network

Finally, there?s help at hand. Your mobile operator will be held accountable every time you receive an unwanted call from a telemarketer. Sector regulator TRAI on Monday notified that service providers will be subjected to a fine of Rs 5,000 for the first unsolicited commercial call made to a Do-Not-Call-registered subscriber, and Rs 20,000 for every subsequent call. All that the subscriber has to do is to inform his service provider within 15 days of the call.

Justifying the move to impose stiff penalties on telecom operators over their failure to rein in unsolicited telemarketing calls, the regulator said, ?There have been a number of consumer complaints to the authority about telemarketing calls.

Financial sanctions, as an effective deterrent to non-compliance of the regulations, has become a necessity. The objective (of these penalties) is to increase the effectiveness of the regulations by providing some financial sanctions to non-compliant telecom service providers and reduce the nuisance and inconvenience caused to mobile phone subscribers.??

Sources said that mobile phone companies are likely to challenge the TRAI directive. While no operator wanted to comment officially, sources said the operators are likely to point out that most of the unsolicited calls were being made by the 15,000 plus unregistered telemarketers and that they had no control over them.
TRAI also directed that telemarketers be fined Rs 500 for the first unsolicited commercial communication they make to a DNC-registered subscriber and added that the fine amount would be increased to Rs 1,000 for every subsequent call.

The Do-Not-Call service was introduced last year by the TRAI for those mobile subscribers who did not want telemarketers to disturb them with calls on house loans, credit cards, insurance and other services. So far, it has been a non-starter as even DNC-registered subscribers continue to be troubled by telemarketers.

The regulator also said that it was forced to impose steep penalties as the issue of increasing telemarketing calls had caught the attention of Parliament, the Supreme Court of India, the Court of Delhi, the Reserve Bank of India and the State Commission (Consumer) of Delhi.

However, it must also be pointed out that only a small section of India?s 250 million mobile subscribers has opted to sign up for Do-Not-Call registry. So far, only 8.3 million phone users have registered for the service. – a far cry from the initial prediction of 50-00 million cellular users likely to sign up immediately to get relief from pesky telemarketers.

Beyond the metros, there are hardly any takers for the DNC. Even in the metros, which have a combined cellular base of over 50 million, only a small percent of subscribers have signed up.

According to TRAI data, about 13,600 telemarketers have got themselves registered with the DoT. The NDNC is being accessed daily by around 600 tele-marketers for scrubbing their calling list. Out of approximately 1,522 million numbers uploaded by the telemarketers for scrubbing, 1,411 million numbers were cleared by NDNC for calling, TRAI added.


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