TRAI is taking pesky calls and SMS from banks very seriously. It has warned six banks that it would cut all their telecom resources across the country if they fail to follow regulatory directions. To show that it means business, it has reportedly cut off all of Citibank’s lines for three hours on a working day last week
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which issued a warning on 23rd September to six banks against using unregistered telemarketers, has actually cracked the whip. According to informed sources, the regulator cut telephone lines of Citibank for three hours on a week day. However, this could not be confirmed at the time of writing. We sent an email, however, Citibank representative declined to comment on the issue.
Last week, TRAI warned six banks, Axis Bank, Citibank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) and State Bank of India (SBI) against using services from unregistered telemarketers for promoting their business. These telemarketers were found using calls and SMS to promote their business.
Customers have been complaining for years about irritating calls from lenders but many companies including banks still call those who have already registered their names in the Do Not Disturb registry. TRAI had pointed out that "Notwithstanding the action taken by TRAI, a large number of complaints continued to be received from consumers regarding calls/SMSs originated by unregistered telemarketers on behalf of banks, insurance companies and builders for promoting their business in utter disregard to the Regulations issued by the Authority," the regulator said.
TRAI said, these organisations are marketing their products through retailers, distributors and franchisees and are therefore, responsible for the acts of their agents. The regulator issued the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference (Thirteenth Amendment) Regulations, 2013, which provide that “in case complaints continue to come in, then on receipt of the third complaint, all the telecom resources of the entity or organisation on whose behalf the business is being solicited, shall be disconnected."
Taking a serious note, the telecom regulator said, "Keeping the larger public interest in view and to prevent public inconvenience, the Authority has decided to exercise temporary regulatory forbearance and has directed the banks to look into the specific cases of breach, initiate corrective action and report back to the Authority within a period of seven days, failing which the banks are liable to have all their telecom resources disconnected throughout the country."
Incidentally, on 1st October, many banks, including Citibank and SBI published ads warning telemarketers from using their name for offering financial products and services, including credit cards and personal loans. This was after all lines of Citibank were shut down. Other banks have taken note of this serious action by TRAI.
Earlier in July, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) also advised banks and financial institutions to use services of only those telemarketers registered with TRAI for all their promotional and telemarketing activities.
In May 2013, Delhi's Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum asked HSBC and its three direct selling agents (DSAs) to pay Rs50,000 as compensation for causing harassment to one Ashutosh Sinha and also pay Rs5,000 towards litigation cost.
In its order, the Consumer Forum, said, “We are of the opinion that some unsolicited calls have been given to the Complainant by which the right of privacy of the Complainant was violated and the Complainant suffered inconvenience, harassment and mental agony due to unsolicited calls. We are of the opinion that Complainant is entitled to be reasonably compensated for that.”
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