According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which maintains the National Do Not Call Register, only five per cent or 1.8 crore out of a total telephone subscriber base of 34. 4 crore in the country have registered against telemarketing calls.
It's quite possible that a large percentage of subscribers are not yet aware of the registry or how to register. The fact remains that subscribers need to be protected from unwanted and unethical calls. (Over 19,000 telemarketing companies are registered with TRAI)
Let me quote examples.
* A consumer bought a health insurance policy, and found that promises made by phone were not honoured on paper. This was a clear violation of insurance regulations, though one can return a policy within 15 days if its terms are not acceptable.
* One consumer asked a telemarketer speaking for her mobile service provider to call an hour later on a new scheme being offered. No call came, but she got a text message congratulating her for having taken up the offer!
* An insurer promised a consumer on the cellphone guaranteed benefits and great returns on a unit-linked insurance product in violation of marketing guidelines of the insurance regulator. She was urged to invest on the basis of verbal promises.
A common feature of almost all telemarketing calls is that they do not want to send any written communication. They want you to make a buying decision on the basis of oral information given on the phone. In most cases, that information is incomplete, misleading and aimed at painting an attractive picture of the product or the service. In fact many times they use oral communication to make promises that they know they cannot keep.
So it's time we had a strong regulation that specifically prohibits deceptive practices in telemarketing and also makes it
mandatory for telemarketing companies to send out written communication on the product or service prior to finalization of any deal.
(Puspa Girimaji Senior journalist, consumer affairs specialist)