The Department of Consumer Affairs on Thursday released draft guidelines to protect consumers from unsolicited and unwanted business communication which includes pesky promotional calls and service messages for public consultation.

The guidelines have been prepared after consultations with stakeholders, including TRAI, consumer bodies and industry players and telecom firms. It defines “business communication” as any communication related to goods or services like promotional and service messages. Once finalised, these guidelines will apply to all individuals and entities that make or engage others for such communications or benefit from them, the Ministry said in a statement.

“The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) studied the impact of unsolicited and unwarranted communications on mobile users in depth in consultation with Telecom Regulations Authority of India (TRAI). It was pointed out that despite TRAI regulations in place, such misleading and deceptive communication have become a sore point for the mobile users, “ it stated.

“The Do Not Disturb (DND) registry has been highly effective for registered telemarketers, but the unwarranted communication from unregistered telemarketers and those using 10-digit private numbers remain unabated,” the official statement added.

Unauthorised marketing

The draft guidelines classify any business communication as unsolicited and unwanted if it does not comply with the recipient’s consent or registered preferences.

Other conditions that would make a communication unsolicited include using a ‘number series’ other than that prescribed by TRAI or DoT or through an SMS header not registered with a Telecom Service provider. Also, business communication done despite recipients opting out, failing to obtain digital consent, not identifying the caller and purpose, and lacking an opt-out option will also be considered unsolicited. The Centre (DoT) has allocated ‘140xxx’ numbering series for making promotional calls and ‘160xxx’ numbering series for making service or transactional calls.

The proposals also bar such communications that violate the telecom regulator Telecom Regulations Authority of India (Trai) rules on commercial messages based on customer preferences. 

The Ministry said it is committed to “safeguarding consumer interests and consumer rights, especially in the increasingly expanding and penetrative consumer space. The proposed guidelines will protect consumers from invasive and unauthorised marketing or promotion of goods and services.” Suggestions can be sent to the Department of Consumer Affairs Ministry by July 21.