• Posted by CERC India
  • Posted in

TRAI rules fall short of curbing pesky calls

They focus only on unsolicited commercial communications


You are in the middle of work when your mobile phone rings insistently. It is an insurance company executive wanting to sell you a health policy. If only the executive knew what havoc such telemarketing calls wreak on your health! In addition to such calls, your phone keeps beeping messages about upcoming sales.

Irritating telemarketing calls and messages are the bane of all mobile phone owners. Despite several measures, including the DND (Do Not Disturb) Mobile App, UCC (Unsolicited Commercial Communications) related complaints are on the rise. Around 1.4 million numbers have been disconnected and 4.6 lakh numbers blacklisted so far but the problem persists.

To tackle this nuisance, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) notified the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2018 on 19 July 2018. The regulations propose to curb the problem of UCCs. Apart from UCCs, there is the menace of fraudulent calls and messages that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have alerted the people about.

Main features

Subscribers’ consent: Subscribers will now have complete control over their consent in relation to receiving UCCs (both calls and messages) and the ability to revoke consent already granted. Also, subscribers will be able to state their preferences in terms of whether they want to receive calls and/or messages and the days of the week and time window in which to allow specific types of UCCs.

Registration of senders: Businesses and telemarketers will have to register themselves. This will enable them to assert their identity and build the trust of clients, curbing fraud. 

Use of headers: Segregation of different types of messages using headers will enable clients to delete or store messages as per their requirement. For instance, the messages could be related to OTPs, flight alerts or special offers.

Message template: Registered templates for both SMS and voice communication have been introduced to prevent the deliberate mixing of promotional messages into the transactional stream. 

Setting preferences


Under the new norms, TRAI has asked telecom operators to allow customers to set their preferences by sending a message to or calling 1909; using a mobile app developed by them or the regulator or going to the website. A subscriber can select a particular category of commercial communication to block say, banking, insurance, credit cards, real estate, education, health, consumer goods, entertainment, tourism or food.

Telecom operators will have to ensure that commercial communications are made to subscribers as per the modified choice after 24 hours of receipt of request. Also, TRAI has increased the penalty cap on telecom operators by ten-fold, to Rs. 50 lakh a month for violation of norms.

CERC suggestions

  1. Telecom subscribers receive unsolicited, undesirable calls from unknown numbers despite having their numbers registered in the Do Not Call Registry. These calls, both local and international, come at odd hours including in the middle of the night. To meaningfully protect subscribers from unsolicited calls, the regulations should address this problem too.
  2. Caller identification facility must be given to subscribers by telecom operators. This will enable them to ignore/block undesirable and unknown numbers.  This information can also be used by the telecom company for identifying and blocking numbers at the system level. Consumer complaints against unsolicited calls from unknown numbers must be recorded.
  3. Consumers should be able to find out about the preferences they have registered.
  4. A list of habitual offenders should be displayed on the telecom operators’ websites as well as TRAI website for consumer awareness.
  5. The numbers of habitual offenders should be blocked and blacklisted at the system level itself. This is irrespective of whether consumers have registered for Do Not Call Registry or not.
  6. Monitoring of unsolicited calls, including marketing calls, should be made more stringent. 

Sources: TRAI regulations, CERC comments, news reports

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