Pesky marketing calls, messages on Whatsapp under regulatory lens; TRAI mulls paper to tackle this problem

By: | Updated: August 31, 2018 12:20 PM

In July, the sector watchdog tightened the rules for all telecom players, including handsets companies, by setting up a new regulatory framework to solve the problem of unwanted calls and texts.

whatsapp fake news, whatsapp fake news detection, whatsapp fake news check, whatsapp fake news video in hindi, whatsapp fake news feature, whatsapp fake news punishment, india government on fake news storiesThe move also comes at a time when the government has questioned some of WhatsApp’s practices including the lack of tractability of messages to check and stop circulation of fake news. (Reuters)

After coming out with draft regulations to stop pesky calls and texts on telecommunications networks, the Telecom Authority of India is now looking into the possibilities to tackle the problems of unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) with over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, and it expected to come out with a consultation paper soon on OTT services, according to a report by The Indian Express.

In July, the sector watchdog tightened the rules for all telecom players, including handsets companies, by setting up a new regulatory framework to solve the problem of UCC. According to the sector regulator, unsolicited texts and calls are serious issues and new regulations require subscribers to register for unwanted calls and texts from telemarketing companies, if one is registered with preference set as fully blocked.

In case of failure to stop unwanted calls and texts, the new rules also mandate hefty penalties on telecom operators. Depending on the degree, the penalty could range from Rs 1,000 to over Rs 46 lakh per violation.

While OTT communication players – which provide telephony or messaging services and are similar to that of telecom companies – have been unaffected from these regulations, telecom companies have reportedly raised concerns on new draft rules, saying that the regulations are flawed and could direct the unwanted calls and texts traffic to OTT platforms.

“Tackling UCC on WhatsApp should be relatively easier. It’s a closed system unlike SMS and users can easily block a number since it is not interoperable and is app to app. Unsolicited messages on a telecom network is (a part of Trai’s purview)… we will be holding consultations on the matter of OTT services,” the newspaper said quoting an official.

However, when asked if TRAI will also look at the option of OTT players signing pacts with companies for commercial communications, the official said: “We will see”. It is also not clear whether TRAI will deal the issue of UCC with OTT players within the same paper or as a separate issue.

The move also comes at a time when the government has questioned some of WhatsApp’s practices including the lack of tractability of messages to check and stop circulation of fake news. WhatsApp has been slapped with two notices by the IT ministry on the issue related to circulation of fake news, and has thereafter taken several measures, including adding ‘forward’ label to help users identify such messages.

The company however has not accepted the demand by the government to trace the origin of such messages as it believes that creating a software for such a purpose will go against its user privacy policy and end-to-end encryption. India is said to be the largest market for WhatsApp as it accounts for more than 200 million of the company’s total 1.3 billion user base across the world.

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