As OTP deliveries fail, TRAI holds back norms on commercial texts

‘Key entities failed to fulfil regulations leading to disruption’

Following disruptions in SMS and OTP deliveries for banking, payments and other transactions, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday temporarily suspended the implementation of norms for commercial text messages, which came into effect on Monday, for seven days.

“It has been observed that some of the principal entities [senders of messages] have not fulfilled the requirements as envisaged in [the] regulations… As a result, their SMS were getting dropped after implementation of the scrubbing of SMS by telecom service providers (TSPs),” the regulator noted.

TRAI added that in order to protect the interests of consumers, it had been decided that ‘scrubbing’ of SMS by telecom providers would be suspended temporarily for seven days to enable the principal entities to register the template of SMS so that no inconvenience was faced by the customers.

“TSPs are being requested to inform their principal entities to take immediate necessary action in this regard and facilitate their registration including SMS template in a time-bound manner,” it said.

The new blockchain-based regulation, which provides for registration of senders, telemarketers, headers, content templates, consent templates, registration of fine-grained subscriber preference, were introduced to curb the menace of unsolicited commercial communications (UCC).

The temporary suspension follows complaints from consumers, many of whom took to social media, that they were not receiving SMSs and OTPs for many services, including for transactional messages such as for banking and e-commerce, following the implementation of the new norms.

The regulator also noted that TSPs published the requirements of a new regulatory framework in leading newspapers, from time to time, to inform all principal entities to get onboarded. They also notified telemarketers and principal entities regarding the implementation of content template scrubbing and other provisions of the regulations, it said.

‘No end to spam’

According to a survey by LocalCircles, 74% of respondents said they still get spam SMS despite registering on TRAI’s ‘Do Not Call Registry’. Nearly 14% of the spam SMS in the last 12 months were with regard to earning money. “37% said they receive 4-7 messages every day, 36% said 8 or more, 25% said 1-3, while only 2% said they don’t get unwanted SMS at all. Per aggregate votes of citizens indicated that 73% get 4 or more unwanted SMSs every day… In the last 2 years, there’s been a minor reduction in the volume of unsolicited SMS received by citizens, which could be attributed to lockdowns and office shutdowns,” the survey group said.

LocalCircles added that 26% respondents said that at least a quarter of unwanted SMS messages that they receive are sent by their mobile service providers, while 43% said this number was between 0 and 25%.

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