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Dial yellow pages, invite trouble

india Updated: Sep 05, 2007 04:28 IST
Nandini R Iyer

The next time you call a "free" yellow pages service think twice before you pass on your phone number or mail id to the helpful person at the other end. Your number and particulars will be passed on to the owners of services you enquired about.

For instance, take Just Dial, India's local search engine, which operates in 42 Indian cities. You call 39999999 (and 22222222, if you're in New Delhi), asking for numbers of marriage bureaus and the executive tells you: "We now have a free service. If you give me your mobile number, we will SMS you the numbers on your phone instantly. You will be charged nothing for the SMS."

But what the friendly executive doesn't tell you is that your details will promptly be passed on to marriage bureaus, which are paying for the service. While all marriage bureaus get a free listing on Just Dial, those who sign up as premium clients for a fee, are given the contact details of callers who asked for marriage bureaus.

And it's a similar story, no matter what service you ask for. Currently, none of this constitutes an offence. India's first National Do Not Call Registry (NDNCR) will start accepting subscriber registration through service providers from September 1. This means that from October 15, a telemarketer who calls a subscriber registered with NDNCR can be penalised.

Senior officials in the telecommunications ministry say unsolicited sales calls, as demonstrated above may not be covered by the NDNCR. "Strictly speaking, if a yellow pages service provides your number to a florist who calls you back soliciting your patronage, it does not constitute telemarketing. And as of now, we don't have a privacy law," a senior official told HT. Telecommunication ministry sources told HT that the government may soon have to decide on coming out with legislation to cover unsolicited phone calls.