Following several complaints, regarding unsolicited loan offers, to then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) notified its regulation for curbing unsolicited commercial communication on 27 September 2011. However, over the years, there is no respite for mobile subscribers from the menace of marketing calls and messages, including loan offers. The complaint mechanism started by TRAI is a futile exercise, in the sense that you file a complaint against one telemarketer and the next day there is some other one spamming you.
With the TRAI initiating measures like allowing subscribers to file a complaint by SMS, it was expected that such unsolicited commercial communication will cease or, at least, reduce. However, the mechanism of TRAI itself does not work most of the time. The format given by TRAI to file a complaint appears to be very simple, but has some errors. Whenever someone files a complaint in the format, bang comes the message that the format is wrong! After trying to send such complaints several times, I finally decided to use the inbuilt mechanism of my mobile to add the numbers or sender's name in the blocked list. Even with the changed format, it is difficult to keep sending complaints. I mean, how many times in a day can one write down the sender’s details and send an SMS to TRAI on 1909 even if it is free of charges?
As far as calls are concerned, telemarketers have become smart. They are using a mobile number procured on an individual's name and keep changing that number to avoid any punishment, if at all, from TRAI. The majority of callers are from financial institutions (mainly direct selling agents --DSAs) and offer personal loan with 'cheap interest rate' if you have any requirement. Isn't this funny? If at all I require a loan, I would approach my banker and not wait for someone to call me and offer 'cheaper interest rates'.
There is the other side to the so-called action taken by TRAI and mobile operators. One fine day, Sunny V (name changed) from Nagpur found his mobile number deactivated by Vodafone without notice or warning. Vodafone claimed that his mobile number was used for telemarketing.
In an email, an executive from Vodafone says, "I have gone through your concern in detail and hereby confirm that, as per the direction of TRAI, services on your Vodafone number have been disconnected due to UCC violation effective 29/05/2017. As we have received complaint that you have sent promotional SMS/Call i.e. UCC (Unsolicited Commercial Communications) to a DND (Do Not Disturb) registered number."
Sunny, however, says he had never used his mobile number for any marketing call or SMS. "Also, how come nobody from the operator i.e. Vodafone never informed me about this or warned me beforehand? How can you (Vodafone) just trust anybody and disconnect my number? Should I not have a chance to clarify? Does that mean tomorrow if I complain against any number, even if I have received only one message from that number, you will go ahead and disconnect that number just because TRAI says so? I am sure TRAI does say about giving warning or notice to the concerned subscriber beforehand," he says in his email to Vodafone.
What is shocking in this case is that Sunny's mobile number is linked to his bank account. This means he will not receive any communication from the bank about transactions, which may cause him a financial loss. In addition, he will have to subscribe for another number and then keep it updated in the records of banks and other entities where he had used his earlier number. Interestingly, Sunny and his entire family are Vodafone subscribers for the past many years and this is the first time this has happened.
As per the TRAI notification, mobile subscribers who do not want to receive commercial communications could dial or SMS to 1909 (toll free) and register in either of the two categories, fully blocked (Start 0) and partially blocked (Start followed by a number of each category). However, despite being registered in the fully blocked category, I continue to receive 2-3 spam messages or calls a day.
Earlier, in August 2010, Mr Mukherjee, received a phone call offering him a loan during an intense discussion he was having with then Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, and other leaders, on price rise in the Parliament.
I am publishing a list of spamsters who continue to send spam or marketing SMS. I have never ever subscribed or shared my mobile number with any of them. Let us see if TRAI takes any action against these telemarketers.