Starting February 1, 2011, telecom operators will have to comply with new Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) guidelines on SMS spam. The new guidelines are likely to make an impact in reducing spam and while some have voiced concerns about how the rules might impact consumers and marketers adversely, overall, removing spam is one of the key stages to legitimising the platform as a way to reach the audience. As long as networks are clogged with unwanted and intrusive spam messages, people will not see them as a trusted means of getting information or value, and most marketers will agree that the real value comes from opted in customers, particularly in a medium which is seen by users to be far more intimate and personal than any other option today.
Bulk messages will be sorted into two categories.
1) Transactional - Alerts from banks, railways or airlines, messages to parents from schools and other such messages.
2) Promotional – Marketing offers, new alerts, intra company messages and other similar messages.
The first step to cutting down spam will be to allow only transactional messages to carry branded sender ID. Promotional messages will carry a five-digit number instead. All promotional messages will also be filtered through the national Do Not Call register, so if you are registered with DND, alerts you have subscribed to, like news alerts, will not come, and also, no promotional messages will come before 9 am or after 9 pm.
TRAI had first taken steps back in June 2007 to bring about such a regulation. However, while the original regulation had made an impact on unsolicited calls, the number of bulk SMS services operating today testifies to the fact that SMS spam remains an issue.
The new regulations have been in the pipeline since May 2010, and take the original Do Not Call registry even further. According to the TRAI press release, a user can today choose to be under the ‘fully blocked’ category, or in the ‘partially blocked’ category where the user will receive messages from categories they choose.
There are seven categories from which the customer can choose –
1. Banking/ Insurance/ Financial products/ credit cards
2. Real Estate
5. Consumer goods and automobiles
6. Communication/ Broadcasting/ Entertainment/ IT
7. Tourism and Leisure
The customer will be able to register by dialing or sending an SMS to 1909.