India took the first step towards giving its citizens a privacy law. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday notified its decision to fine cellphone operators for failing to act against pesky telemarketers harassing subscribers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry (NDNCR).
In the absence of a formal legislation in India on privacy, this constitutes the first step towards a privacy law.
The TRAI will suo motu monitor records provided every month by cellphone operators on the status of complaints from people. Action will be taken against errant operators. The consumer, too, can complain against telemarketers.
The TRAI has made it mandatory for subscribers who complain about Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCCs) to register their complaints with the service provider within 15 days of receiving such a call or SMS.
This is what you can do to stop unsolicited calls. First, register for the NDNCR by informing your service provider. You should stop getting Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCCs) within 45 days. If you do get a UCC after 45 days, you can complain to the service provider who has to give you a complaint number. Within a week, the caller will be charged Rs 500 per minute for a UCC. If there is a second call, the caller will be charged Rs 1,000 per minute and if there is a third complaint, the concerned service provider will have to disconnect the telemarketer’s number.
If the service provider does not follow the TRAI guidelines on registering the complaint and penalising telemarketers, consumers can write to the TRAI, which will then fine the service provider up to Rs 5,000 for the first offence and up to Rs 20,000 for the second offence.
Lawyer Harsh Pathak, who filed the public interest litigation in the Supreme Court about unsolicited phone calls, says: “It is a good step towards creating respect for privacy.” He feels it would be better if the fine money was paid to the subscriber who gets harassed, but senior TRAI officials ruled out the possibility.