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Saturday, January 29, 2011

TRAI - Boon or Bust for SMS Pull services

No doubt unsolicited calls and SMS have been a menace to Indian society for a long time. People from both sides of the table have lobbied extensively with the government to keep their side of the business running. TRAI created the National Do Not Call registry against this Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC), but without enforcement or awareness it just seemed like an half hearted attempt. But now with the new guidelines being laid down by the TRAI (now called NCPR) it appears that the government is indeed serious to curb this menace. Or is it?
NCPR appears to have sharper claws compared to NDNC by making the operator party to the UCC. Operator cannot get away this time by passing the blame on to the aggregator. The fines imposed on a complaint registered are quite steep to make both the operator and aggregator sit up and screen the messages being sent over their network. For Bulk SMSes, it defines two categories, Transactional and Promotional. Transactional SMS, according to their FAQ is any message sent by Financial institution, Railways, Airlines or Educational institutions to it’s registered users. Everything else is termed as Promotional.
It appears that the consumers are indeed going to be happy with this new guideline if implemented and enforced to the dot. But they will also not be able to use any of the pull services that they were used to due to this blanket ban on such communication. Google (SMS number 9 77 33 00000), Facebook (92-FACEBOOK) and our own direction services (90088 90088) rely on consumers sending a SMS, and the service replying to the requested sms. TRAI guideline does not talk about these services, and since the operators are going to term any Bulk SMS as a promotional SMS,
  • People registered in NCPR/NDNC will not be able use these services,
  • People will lose interactivity as the message now will not come from the virtual 10 digit number and
  • No one (even people not registered in NCPR/NDNC) will be able to use the service between 9PM and 9AM.
This guideline is definitely something good against the UCC, but it appears that not a lot of thought has been given while drafting it. TRAI seems unapproachable to any of our queries. It requests Tele-Marketer to register with http://www.nccptrai.gov.in after paying Rs 10,000/- and download the list of NCPR registered users for scrubbing, but the site just provides a CSV file with zero rows in it.
Is this yet another half hearted attempt by the TRAI to address Unsolicited communication? Is this going to kill the nascent industries banking on SMS pull services?
Only time will tell.

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