HERO-KR: Amid disruptions, TRAI suspends new norms for commercial text messages for one week

Telecom regulator TRAI on Tuesday suspended the newly-implemented norms for commercial text messages for one week, following major disruptions in SMS and OTP deliveries for banking, payment, and other transactions.

The norms that pertain to content template checks and balances for text messages came into effect on Monday. Its temporary suspension now would give commercial entities, sending out messages and OTPs to customers, a reprieve and more time to comply with the stipulated requirements.

The move to suspend the norms would enable the ‘principal entities’ to register the template of SMS so that no inconvenience is faced by the customers, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a statement.

“In order to protect the interest of consumers, it has been decided that scrubbing of SMS by telecom service providers shall be suspended temporarily for seven days…,” it said.

According to the regulator, telecom operators are being asked to inform their ‘principal entities’ to take immediate necessary action in this regard and facilitate their registration, including SMS template, in a time-bound manner.

The temporary suspension comes after transactions, including banking, credit card payment and certain other services that involve SMSs and OTP generation, faced a major outage on Monday, and some estimates pegged the delivery failure and delays of such SMSes at 40 per cent.

The disruption that had even impacted SMS/OTP deliveries for railway ticket bookings and Co-WIN registration occured after telcos implemented the TRAI norms for commercial messages.

The latest norms, based on blockchain technology, aim to curb unsolicited and fraudulent messages.

The norms require bonafide enities sending out commercial text messages to register message header and templates with telecom operators. The SMS and OTPs, when sent by user entities (banks, payment companies) are checked against the templates pre-registered by them on the blockchain platform — the implementation of this content template ‘scrubbing functionality’, as it is called, has now been suspended for seven days.

On Monday, banking and telecom companies traded charges over the SMS, OTP disruptions. While banks and payment enities flagged faulty implementation of procedures by telcos, telecom operators squarely blamed the entities for not complying with regulatory requirements and not doing the needful despite repeated reminders.

“It has been observed that some of the principal entities have not fulfilled the requirements as envisaged in Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2018. As a result, their SMS were getting dropped after implementation of the scrubbing of SMS by telecom service providers,” TRAI said.

Pesky calls/messages or Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) has posed major inconvenience to the public and also impinges on the privacy of individuals, the regulator noted.

To curb this, TRAI had issued rules that put in place a framework for controlling such unsolicited communications and spam messages.

“The regulations entirely came into force with effect from 28.02.2019. The regulation provides for registration of senders, telemarketers, headers, content templates, consent templates, registration of fine-grained subscriber preference etc,” TRAI explained.

A direction under the rules was issued to all telecom service providers on January 20, 2020 to take due measures for onboarding of senders of messages called principal entities.

Telecom operators publicised the requirements of the new regulatory framework from time to time to inform all such entities to get onboarded.

“Telecom service providers also notified telemarketers and principal entities regarding the implementation of content template scrubbing and other provisions… from time to time,” TRAI said on Tuesday.

Uday Reddy, Chairman and CEO of Tanla Platforms lauded TRAI’s move to allow enterprises and telemarketers more time to comply with regulation news.

“Tanla’s DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) platform Trubloq was created to empower users and block spam calls and messages and enable enterprises build trust and faith with end users in the commercial communications domain.

“Towards this objective, Tanla is working closely with enterprises and telemarketers by supporting them to register their content templates and ensure conformity with the regulation,” Reddy said.

The DLT platform was commercially launched in September 2020.

“Tanla has onboarded more than 34,000 enterprises and the DLT platform currently processes around 70 per cent of A2P (Application to Person Messaging) traffic in India, topping more than 1 billion interactions in a single day recently,” Reddy said.

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