Indian operators fined for failing to stop spam calls and messages

India’s telecom regular “Telecom Regulatory Authority of India” (TRAI) has fined operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea for $4.24 million (₹34.99 crores) after they were found being unable to stop spam calls and SMS on their respective networks.

The country’s Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that “Access Providers” couldn’t fulfill their obligations.

He explained that the country’s major mobile network operators (MNOs)- Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea were fined around ₹35 Crore for failing to contain fake calls and SMS on their cellular networks:

“TRAI has imposed financial disincentives of Rs. 34,99,98,000 on the Access Service Providers for failing to curb unsolicited commercial communications in their networks from Registered Telemarketers.”

Indian operators phased out 15,382 and 32,032 subscriptions in 2021 and 2022 respectively for not adhering to the Telecom Commercial Communication Customers Preference Regulation (TCCCPR), 2018, the minister added.

However, he said that the efforts taken by the service providers proved slim to the requirement as spam calls and SMS went rampant in the country in recent few years.  

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Access providers are told to make stringent steps to eradicate the issue. TRAI has recently directed Access Providers to devise a unified digital platform in two months which shall allow their subscribers to agree, maintain, and revoke consent for “promotional calls and messages” they receive on their phone numbers.

As part of the plan, the first phase will allow the subscribers to initiate the process to submit their consent for receiving “spam” calls or messages on their phones.  Businesses will then need to get retrieval from phone users for promotional calls and messages.

In the meantime, Access Providers are told to use a short code that shall begin with 127 for sending a message to get consent.

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