Telemarketing Companies Find A Loophole In TRAI Directive; Starts Routing SMS’ Through Offshore Servers

The recent TRAI directive, aimed to curb unsolicited text message advertisement, has not met with complete success. The directive restricts the maximum number of SMS sent from any number to 100 in a day. The telemarketing companies have quickly found a way around this by utilizing offshore servers. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) earlier initiative, Do Not Call Registry, had also not met much of a success.

A little over a month has passed since the directive came into effect on 27th September. Initially there was a drastic reduction in the number of unsolicited SMS’ received, but within a week or so these SMS’ were back albeit in smaller numbers. TRAI has already received over 2500 complaints regarding this.India has over 860 million mobile subscribers, which makes telemarketing a very lucrative venture. This directive has had an adverse effect on their business and they will be looking at loopholes in the system.

Telemarketing companies have been severely hit by this directive. Even tough some of them have found loopholes, but still their business has been reduced by 30% to 40%. Many telemarketing companies depended exclusively on bulk SMS. Over a period of time they have acquired a large database of mobile numbers and sending marketing SMS’ to these numbers was a daily routine for them. These companies are in dire straits now. Commercial communications through phone calls were also banned by TRAI, but the rules were made stringent only recently. Now telemarketing companies are in a fix as they have no means of continuing their operations. Considering the fact that the telemarketing industry is estimated to be worth Rs. 1500 crore these companies are facing heavy losses.

A telemarketing company usually has a database of over 100,000 numbers, but now a tiny fraction of those numbers are useful as most mobile subscribers have registered their number on the NDNC list. Add to this the fact that any digression from the directive, on the part of the telemarketing companies, can lead to penalization to the tune of Rs. 2.5 lakh. Subscribers have the option to opt for either the ‘fully blocked’ category or the ‘partially blocked’ category. Plus, even if a subscriber is not registered on the NDNC list no commercial communication can be made to them between 9pm and 9am.

E-commerce sites and portals which depend on SMS have also been affected. Some solutions have been emerging in the shape of companies like ZipDial. For telemarketing companies there is no such solution in sight. They have to take their chances with routing their SMS’ through offshore servers and targeting mobile subscribers who are yet to register on the NDNC list. Email is another alternative which telemarketing companies have been contemplating, but unless they can find a way to bypass the spam folder it will be of no real use. Add to this the fact that the Cellular Operators Association of India has already taken note of the incidents of telemarketing companies utilizing offshore servers. The COAI’s director-general has said that it might take some time but they will find a way to monitor messages sent through offshore servers.

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