The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has notified the country’s operators that they should reactivate filters aimed at tackling nuisance SMS messages from 1st April.
TRAI first recommended “content-scrubbing” filters in 2018 in a bid to crack down on unsolicited messages, spam and fraud. Under the proposals, the sender must pre-register a template with the regulator before sending out messages in bulk. This is then used to verify the SMS content.
According to the Economic Times, the regulator set an implementation date of 8th March 2021 to allow companies time to prepare. However, many of the principal senders of bulk SMS - such as banks and telemarketers - failed to bring themselves in line with the new rules, resulting in chaos as the filters targeted legitimate messages rather than unsolicited ones.
To restore order and protect consumers, TRAI pulled the filtering system after just one day in operation and ordered operators and bulk SMS senders to cooperate in order to ensure the flow of legitimate communications. TeleGeography reports that content scrubbing was reintroduced on 17th March, although messages that fell short of the criteria were not blocked.
After another week, TRAI issued a statement saying: “It was observed that some of the principal entities have not fulfilled the requirements as envisaged TCCCPR, 2018, even after two years, despite being fully aware of the regulations and the consequences. Unfortunately, despite repeated communication, all major banks and big telemarketers sending SMS have failed to fulfil regulatory requirements.”
Arguing that “sufficient opportunity has been given” to the principal entities, TRAI stated that the filtering system will be fully reinstated from 1st April. However, some of the companies that TRAI has blamed for the disruption have taken legal action against its orders, claiming that it is too difficult to comply with TRAI’s “rigid” requirements.
Shivtel Communications founder Nitish Gopalani said: “This is not a one-time compliance task, there are close to 100,000 templates which flow into the system every day.” The bulk messaging company clocked a failure rate of 80% when the scrubbing system was first implemented. Communications platform-as-a-service Kaleyra concurred, with one official stating: “ensuring 100% compliance for one billion SMSs per day across India is a next to impossible task.”