SMS scrubbing: Errant bulk senders to get 3 days to comply

Having temporarily suspended the scrubbing of short message service (SMS) for seven days, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday once again asked principal entities to register the template of their messages to avoid being barred from sending messages in future.

In a release, the telecom regulator said that, going ahead, principal entities which do not comply with regulatory requirements will be notified by respective telecom operators to adhere within 3 days, failing which their names would be displayed on the website of the operator.

“Even after this period, if they fail to fulfill the regulatory requirements, they would not be allowed to send bulk communication using telecom resources,” Trai said in its release.

Trai had, in 2018, released a framework under which telcos could use a distributed ledger technology or blockchain to verify the sender information and content of every commercial SMS before it was delivered on the user’s device. This process, known as scrubbing, was implemented from Monday after several delays over the past two years.

Following directions from Trai, the telcos implemented the technology on Monday, which in turn led to functioning of several SMS-based services of banks and e-commerce platforms being hit as they had not registered their templates with the telcos. A day later, Trai suspended the new norms for seven days to allow the principal entities one last chance to register their templates.

As per the norms, principal entities, which will be allowed to send commercial SMSes to customers, will have to register the template of the message they send, the header of the message they wish to send, the template they use for gaining user consent, and the preference of the user on what kind of commercial messages they would like to receive or not.

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Providing these details, in turn, will help telcos whitelist certain principal entities and allow them to send commercial messages to the users, based on the preference set by the user.

“The regulatory provisions not only help in preventing spam but also help in preventing fraudulent messages purporting to originate from banks, financial institutions or other trusted sources. It also helps the principal entities to enhance it reach by registering the consent of the customers,” Trai said in its release.

Unsolicited commercial communication has been an area of major concern for the telcos as well as Trai. Though it had norms in place, such as user’s registration for ‘Do Not Disturb’, it had gaps in technology which allowed unscrupulous telemarketers to override the stated preference of the subscriber by claiming consent that may have been surreptitiously obtained.

To fix the same, the regulator mooted the concept of using blockchain or distributed ledger technology for registration of principal entities that sent such bulk commercial messages.

“Blockchain will ensure two things — non-repudiation and confidentiality. Only those authorised to access details will be able to access subscriber details and only when they need to deliver service,” the then Trai Chairman R S Sharma had then said.

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