Delhi HC asks TRAI to ensure strict implementation of regulation to curb unsolicited commercial calls

The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed telecom regulator Trai to ensure "complete and strict" implementation of the regulation issued by it in 2018 for curbing unsolicited commercial communications (UCC). The high court also directed the telecom service providers (TSPs), which included state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone, to ensure they strictly comply with the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preferences Regulations (TCCCPR) 2018 issued by Trai.

With these directions, a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh disposed of a plea by One97 Communications Ltd, which runs online payment platform Paytm, alleging that telecom operators are not blocking "phishing" activities over various mobile networks.

Phishing is a cyber crime where people are contacted by e-mail, phone calls or text messages by someone posing as a legitimate representative of an organisation to lure them to part with their sensitive data, including banking and credit card details and passwords.

The direction by the bench came after senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for One97 Communications, told the court that it may dispose of the matter by directing Trai and the TSPs to implement and comply with the TCCCP Regulations.

Telecom tower. Representational Image

The counsels for the TSPs, during the brief hearing, told the bench that they were complying with the regulations and would continue to do so.

The bench, thereafter, said, "We direct Respondent 2 (Trai) to ensure complete and strict implementation of the TCCCP Regulations of 2018 and other related regulations issued from time to time to prevent unsolicited commercial communications over the networks of the TSPs.

"We expect Respondent 2 to strictly implement the regulations and in case of any violation, action would be initiated in accordance with the regulations".

In November last year, Trai had told the court that it has imposed financial disincentives ranging from Rs 34,000 to Rs 30 crore on telecom companies like BSNL, Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone for not preventing UCC over their networks between April to June 2020.

The submission by Trai had come pursuant to the court's direction in September 2020 to start taking action in accordance with law against unregistered entities and those persons not complying with its regulations to curb the problem of UCCs.

In a media statement, the CEO and Managing Director of Paytm Payments Bank Ltd, Satish Kumar Gupta, said, "Today's decision by the Honourable Court will go a long way in safeguarding millions of Indians in the country who make digital payments and other online transactions. We strongly believe that all of us including regulators, government and access providers have to come together to fight the menace of fraudulent calls and SMSs in the country.

"We are sanguine that telcos will abide by the court's order in true spirit. This is important to further reinforce the trust of citizens in digital transactions and help in building a truly digital and AtmaNirbhar Bharat."

Paytm, in its plea filed through advocate Karuna Nandy, had claimed that millions of its customers have been defrauded by the phishing activities over the mobile networks and the failure of the telecom companies to prevent the same has "caused financial and reputational loss" to it for which it had also sought damages of Rs 100 crore from them.

Paytm had contended that the telecom majors are violating their obligations under the TCCCPR 2018.

Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd which publishes Firstpost

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