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TRAI writes to key ministries, associations, NIC, others on new norms for bulk SMS

TRAI’s new regulatory requirement for commercial messages, based on blockchain technology, aims to curb unsolicited and fraudulent messages.

PTI | New Delhi |


TRAI has written to key ministries, associations like COAI and Nasscom and nodal agencies like NIC in a massive information outreach as it pulls out all stops to ensure smooth implementation of its new regulations on bulk messages after March 31.

Sources in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said NIC has assured the regulator that it is in a state of readiness to assist government organisations and agencies, and resolve any issues, as new rules for commercial messages come into force.

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) provides technology support to governance services.

The regulator has written to key stakeholders across sectors informing them at length about the rules, and urging them to advise entities and organisations under their jurisdiction to “strictly comply with the new regulatory requirement without further delay”.

As part of this outreach program, TRAI also sounded out industry associations CII, FICCI, Assocham, Nasscom and COAI, urging them to inform their member organisations about new regulatory requirements, the sources said.

TRAI has also written to entities such as NIC, CDAC as well as all government organisations that are availing benefits of concessional SMSes.

This is in addition to outreach to key central ministries, and chief secretaries of states on the issue.

TRAI’s new regulatory requirement for commercial messages, based on blockchain technology, aims to curb unsolicited and fraudulent messages.

The norms require bonafide entities sending commercial text messages to register message headers and templates with telecom operators.

The SMSes and OTPs, when sent by user entities (banks, payment companies and others), are checked against the templates registered on the blockchain platform — a process called SMS scrubbing.

The allotment of header, registration of template, and various others checks and balances would allow the verification of identity and purpose of communication by genuine entities.

Earlier this month, however, transactions, including banking, credit card payment and certain other services that involve SMSes and OTP generation, had faced a major outage when telcos implemented the TRAI norms without the balancing measures in place by principal entities (which send out bonafide bulk, commercial messages).

Following the disruption, TRAI had given a temporary breather to such companies, but had insisted that they take immediate measures to comply with the norms.

The telecom regulator, this Friday, released a list of 40 “defaulter” principal entities, including large banks like HDFC Bank, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, that were not fulfilling its regulatory norms on bulk commercial messages, despite repeated reminders.

Toughening its stance on the issue, TRAI warned that defaulting entities should comply with the stipulated requirements by March 31, 2021 “to avoid any disruption in the communication with customers” from April 1, 2021.

“As sufficient opportunity has been given to principal entities/ telemarketers to comply with the regulatory requirements and that the consumers cannot be deprived of the benefits of the regulatory provisions any further, therefore it has been decided that from April 1, 2021, any message failing in the scrubbing process due to non-compliance of regulatory requirements will be rejected” by the system, TRAI had said in a statement recently.