You may now get a breather from pesky and spam calls. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday spelt out new rules that mandates subscribers’ consent for receiving such calls/ messages.

It has notified the Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018, which seeks to curb the problem of unsolicited commercial communication. It has also asked telecom operators to ensure that such communications take place only through registered senders.

Violations under various categories will attract a penalty ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹50 lakh, based on the type of offence, the regulator said.

“…with the adoption of newer technologies, such as automated calling, the spammers have acquired the ability to reach ever larger target groups. In this backdrop, a complete overhaul of the regulation had become unavoidable,” TRAI said in the notification.

Both imposters and fraudsters have taken advantage of loopholes in verification of identities by putting distance between themselves and the telecom service providers (TSPs) through multiple intermediaries controlled by weak and unverifiable agreements, it said.

“The objective of the regulation is to effectively deal with the nuisance of spam experienced by the subscribers,” the regulator said.

The regulator said that every access provider should establish ‘customer preference registration facility (CPRF)’ and make necessary arrangements to facilitate customers by providing ways and means to record consent (or its revocation) related to commercial communication.

It has also introduced the concept of registered templates for both SMS and voice communication to prevent deliberate mixing of promotional messages into the transactional stream. “This will give relief to subscribers who feel targeted by unwanted communication today,” the regulator added.

The regulations also talks about ‘adoption of distributed ledger technology (or blockchain)’ to ensure regulatory compliance while allowing innovation.

Machine-learning tech

TRAI said it has explored the use of machine learning technologies to classify messages in its DND 2.0 app. “These regulations would enable development of newer tools based on Artificial Intelligence or other technologies for an easier subscriber experience in setting preferences, governing consent and reporting violations,” it said.

The measures will bring in the flexibility and speed “necessary to combat the spammers who change their tactics and morph their identities,” it said.

“The infrastructure may be outsourced and shared, while the unbundling of the functions allows third-party provider to compete for providing quality solutions at the lowest cost. Considering the large volume of messages (20-30 billion a month), the per-unit cost of compliance would be negligible,” it added.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) feels the time-frame is too stringent, given the requirement to implement distributed ledger technology. “We are committed to addressing customers’ concerns and will work with TRAI to see if our mutual concerns and interests can be met,” Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said.