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India fighting losing battle against spam: says COAI citing Whatsapp

Indian telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasadi has told Rajy Sabha recently that the country has overcome the menace of unsolicited phone calls and texts from telemarketers but they are replaced by web-based ads with automatic and annoying messages.


The minister said there is a dramatic decline in the number of complaints lodged by consumers on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) portal nccptrai.gov.in ever since the passage of the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (2010).

The fines collected for violation from the service operators amounted to Rs.7.13 crore, while 12.6 lakh phone connections of spam callers have been disconnected and 19 telemarketers have been blacklisted permanently. In addition, 2.4 lakh have been blacklisted for two years, the Minister informed the Rajya Sabha while answering a question.

But the country is beset with a bigger menace in the form of online and automatic SMS messages sent mostly by Whatsapp and the TRAI is said to be busy looking for some control channels on online free messages.

Even the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said the online spamming would soon become a bigger headache in India. COAI is up against the free SMS service provider, Whatsapp, which has more than 60 million people hooked on to it now in the country. Facebook, owner of Whatsapp, is also an associate member of COAI since August.

Though the 2010 act prohibited and curbed all spam phone calls and texts, it does not apply to WhatsApp, which is an online-based service provider. COAI director general Rajan Mathews told The Hindu recently: “Spam sent over WhatsApp, Internet-based spam calls and spam messages — the current regulations do not cover it, and this is a major new front for unsolicited calls and messages.”

While Mathews is not forthcoming on a solution, TRAI has recently called for ideas and concept papers to deal with the problem. Other telecom majors like Bharti Airtel, Reliance and other private operators have already complained to the TRAI on Whatsapp.



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