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Curbs on unwanted calls?

Private telemarketing companies may be asked to use only one identifiable number, writes M Rajendran.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 15:20 IST

Private telemarketing companies may be asked to use only one identifiable number, like the toll-free numbers 1600 or 1900, while calling a mobile phone user to sell their products and services.

Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran on Monday chaired a meeting with private telecom operators to examine ways to curb the growing menace of telemarketing.

The meeting was called following the PIL filed in the Supreme Court against unsolicited calls on mobile phones, and the directive of the Supreme Court to take necessary action at the earliest.

The government counsel Gopal Subramanium had told the Supreme Court, while presenting the government’s case, that it would respond with appropriate measures to curb the problem of unsolicited calls.

Concerned with the growing menace of telemarketing calls, the Department of Telecommunications is likely to hold a meeting with the leading banks and credit card companies to discuss their telemarketing operations and privacy issues of phone users. An identifiable number is one of the options being considered by the Department of Telecommunications .

Sources in Communications Ministry said, “The Department of Telecommunications on Monday discussed with mobile operators the possible methods to stop the growing problem of unsolicited calls, and suggested that at their end, the operators should take strict measures to stop any possible unauthorised sale of data by its own employees.” The calls made on mobile phones to sell credit cards, offer loans and membership to hotels and clubs have grown in the absence of a data protection law and clear directives from the Department of Telecommunications and proactive initiatives from the private mobile operators to stop them. Sources said that private telecom operators were considering legal option against telemarketing companies as the last resort.

Last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had suggested that the unwanted telemarketing calls could be addressed through the provision of exclusion of the numbers of those customers who do not want their telephone numbers listed in the directory services and through appropriate legislative and other measures. It had strongly advocated publication of telephone directory and directory enquiry services.

But the private mobile operators feel that it would be counterproductive with more violations of privacy.

“We are not in favour of a telephone directory for mobile phones. This point was highlighted in our response last year while responding to the consultation paper on this issue. We still feel that it is important to have strict directives against the telemarketers instead of operators,” said T.V. Ramachandran, Director General of Cellular Operators association of India (COAI).

They also claim that even the option for ‘do-not-call’ registry is not a foolproof mechanism. They argue that the United States has had less than 50 per cent success in implementation of ‘do-not-call’ registry after more than 10 years of its implementation.

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 15:18 IST