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Junk SMS mess: Over 100 million a day
Published on 2 Aug. 2010 10:31 PM IST
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: If they can’t call you, they will definitely flood your inbox with text messages. Thanks to a commercial SMS costing less than a paisa, every sort of advertiser - from builders, insurance and investment companies, vaastu and fitness experts to sauna belt and geyser manufacturers - has turned to bulk text messages, taking the daily junk SMS count across the country past 100 million.
And that count is only set to grow further as more customers take to mobile phones: according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the number of wireless subscribers in India increased to 671.69 million by June-end from 653.92 million in May.
Conceding that the National Don’t Call Registry (NDNC) has not helped customers (though it has brought down unwanted calls), Trai, in its consultation paper on “Review of Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations’’, has mooted a ‘National Do-Call’ (NDC) registry so that consumers can choose the kind of calls and SMSs they want to receive.
Currently, a mobile user cannot even unsubscribe or reply to a bulk SMS number.
Predictably, while the Trai plan has been welcomed by consumer organizations and individual mobile users, mobile service providers, telemarketers and commercial organizations are in vehement opposition, stated Economic Times.
Despite repeated attempts, including emails, Trai secretary P K Arnold did not respond; a senior official, however, admitted that unsolicited commercial SMSs had become a menace and there was no quick-fix in sight.
“Telecom companies and telemarketers have been maintaining that this mode of communication helps spread awareness among consumers and helps them reach out to potential customers. They feel a Do Call register will harm their business,’’ the official said. ``But we are also flooded with complaints from mobile users and consumer organizations.’’
The Gujarat-based Consumer Protection Association has called upon Trai to crack down on telemarketers and business entities buying bulk SMSs or leased lines from service providers at very nominal costs and texting those even on the NDNC registry.
“This causes eating into the memory space of the handsets, resulting in non-delivery of important messages... It also burdens the telecommunication network,’’ it said, adding that accountability should be fixed on service providers, who are the direct beneficiary.
Service providers, however, are unwilling to play ball. “Whereas every voice call costs at least 20 paise, text messages don’t cost more than one paisa to a telemarketing company. There is a need to establish a minimum price threshold for bulk SMSs,’’ said a senior executive of a mobile phone service provider.
Telecom players point out that there are no laws which could act as a deterrent to telemarketers against violating the NDNC registry. Some stakeholders are talking of imposing a penalty on the vendor or the company on whose behalf SMSs are triggered.
A major mobile operator, in turn, has told Trai that issuing new numbers to offenders should be discouraged, at least for a minimum duration. Experts, meanwhile, say the mobile user should be empowered. The customer, they argue, should have the facility to register a complaint against a service provider violating the norms and be able to opt out from receiving such SMSs.

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