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New TRAI Rules: Switch the SMS Spam OFF


New Telemarketing Rules are here from Jan 1. Fairly major, it seems, with some interesting implications. (Full Regulation is here)

  • All telemarketers to register, and will get numbers starting from 70.
  • You can choose to be fully blocked (no calls or SMSes) or selectively enable stuff.
  • “Partially Blocked”: You can choose to switch off calls or SMSes category wise; with categories for Banking/Fin, Real Estate, Education and so on. You won’t receive what you don’t register for.
  • Service providers like banks and brokerages get to send stuff, but no promotional content allowed.
  • All commercial stuff is off between 9 PM and 9 AM. Only downside: things like commodity markets close at 11:30 pm, so the SMS of daily marks will come only the next morning. Okay, yeah, I’m being one niche idiot.
  • All data needs to be scrubbed by both the marketers and the telco. Fines for slip-ups is from 25K (First offense) to 2.5 Lakhs (Sixth). Further offenses and the marketer is banned for two years.
  • The registration process is just 7 days (from 45). But the catch is – you change your preference once, and you can’t change it for three months more. Whoa.
  • Current NDNC registrations automatically get transferred into the “Fully Blocked” category.
  • Telemarkers need to register, and pay 10K. They’ll also pay a security deposit of Rs. 1 lakh.
  • To avoid regular users trying to subvert these regulations – no packages for more than 100 SMS per day will be allowed for end-customers.
  • For complaints there’s a simple short code (1909) to call, toll free. This results in an enquiry and appropriate fine deducted by the service provider. 

There’s no charge for the customer.

I guess this hugely increases the costs and reduces revenues of large VAS providers like ValueFirst and One97 (One97 has an IPO they’ve registered for, btw).

Plus, think of all the folks that used to sell SMS packages online, using an API – how will they ensure the categorization of their SMSes, since their customers can send anything through them? The cost – fines of 25K to2.5L – is way too high, and it’s unlikely their business model stays valid this way.

It’s also negative for real estate where brokers use SMS spam to liberally advertise. And for telecom (the telcos kept >50% of commercial revenues on short codes, and made reasonable sums on SMS spam).

While this is great to avoid spam calls and SMS, I think this will kill a huge piece of the VAS industry. It will create a push for other ways to get to users – but it won’t be through intrusive calls. And it might help the print and television ecosystems – if you can’t spam on SMS, then you must find another way to get to the consumer.


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