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Pesky SMSs again - via new routes

Sunday November 06, 2011 12:34:28 PM, Priyanka Sahay, IANS

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New Delhi: Your phone buzzes and you reach for it - only to find yet another telemarketing call or SMS, though you thought you had blocked them. Many people report telemarketers are brazenly carrying on with their pesky calls and messages despite the new regulations.

"Despite registering with Do Not Call, I am still getting at least one to two messages, especially real estate offers, daily," a harassed Manoj Sharma, a Delhi businessman, told IANS.

Customers expected an end to the regular unsolicited messages once the new measures of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) came into force Sep 27 but it appears some loopholes were left.

While some telemarketers have resorted to internet messaging solutions from overseas servers beyond the jurisdiction of either TRAI or the government, many customers also report getting calls from insurance or property agents from landline and mobile numbers, in violation of the regulations which had enforced a "140" prefix for calls from registered telemarketers.

Officials say they are looking into these complaints.

Speaking to IANS on the issue, TRAI chairman J.S. Sarma said the telecom regulator is looking into the matter and the existing regulations are sufficient for the issue.

"We are taking a look at that. There is no need for new regulations," Sarma said.

Acknowledging that the calls and messages are still coming, he however noted their frequency has reduced largely.

"The fact is there are millions of people who are registered on CPR (Customer Preference Regulation), out of whom the number of people who have registered the complaint is a very very small number," he added.

According to TRAI, 1,122 subscribers using their numbers for commercial purposes have been issued notices while 111 subscribers have been disconnected. In case of telemarketers, 17 have been penalised so far.

The regulator advises subscribers still receiving pesky messages or calls to lodge their complaint by calling or messaging 1909.

Any commercial messages which is sent to a mobile customer needs to have a code indicating the location and source operator followed by the alphabets of the advertising companies or numbers.

However, now most of such messages do not contain any of that except for the names of random companies like "Best Deal" or "Free Mobile".

"I am still getting these irritating messages despite registering. Earlier I used to get codes like LM, DM, etc, with the sender ID but now I only get the company's codes," Ankita Sinha, a student of the Delhi School of Economics, told IANS.

According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director general Rajan Mathews, the lack of prefixes and unique codes is a violation of TRAI regulations as well as making it difficult to figure out the messages' source.

"Telemarketing companies have started exploiting new methods to send messages. They are most probably coming from websites with overseas servers which are difficult to trace and filter," Mathews told IANS.

While an ordinary telemarketing firm charges 5 to 20 paise per SMS, these servers might cost something around 50 paise to Re.1 per message but still the companies go with it.

TRAI has laid out a maximum penalty of Rs.2.5 lakh for violators. There is also a provision of getting blacklisted for two years after the sixth violation, but these rules do not apply to servers located outside India.

Expressing the government's helplessness, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal recently admitted that it is difficult to completely ban such calls and SMSs.

"People are very they are using internet to send such messages. Now we don't have any control on the internet," Sibal said.

"The server may be somewhere outside the country. You may put your calls or messages through that server. How will we deal with that server over which we have no jurisdiction?" he said.

However, according to bulk messages firm SMS GupShup, these messages can be controlled as SMSs cannot reach subscribers without being routed by the service providers.

"TRAI can surely control these messages, irrespective of the place of their origin, whether it is from India or abroad as even if a message originates through the internet, eventually it has to be sent to an Indian operator to be routed by its network," Vishwanath Ramachandran, chief technology officer, SMS GupShup, told IANS.

(Priyanka Sahay can be contacted at





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