5 Aug 2008, 0208 hrs IST, Shalini Singh,TNN
NEW DELHI: Consumers might have heaved a sigh of relief in the anticipation of pesky calls finally stopping, thanks to Supreme Court's suggestion of a "call registry" in place of a do-not-call (DNC) registry, but the telecom industry appears completely at odds with the suggestion.
The argument of the SC is that default option for all subscribers should be DNC. Only those who wish to receive calls should indicate their wish to receive unsolicited commercial calls (UCC) by registering at a call registry at the time of purchasing a SIM card or later.
The telecom industry, however, fears that any directive by the court to move to a call registry will be tantamount to a blanket ban on commercial calls. "Since no consumer will sign up on a call registry, the effect will be the same as a complete ban," said a senior official in a leading telecom firm.
According to the industry, low literacy among mobile phone subscribers, leading top virtual non-usage of SMS. In turn, this might mean that even those consumers wishing to receive calls cannot indicate their preference. Operators accuse non-registered telemarketers of being the real culprits. Nearly 70% of the 1 lakh telemarketers are out of the DNC registry scanner, they claim. "When detected they switch numbers and restart the activity," said an official with a top telecom company.
VOICE, a consumer body has a different perspective. It talks of Trai's failure to use its powers. "A new process will be counter-productive. We need to enforce the regulation on the DNC registry," says Bejon Misra of Consumer Voice. When contacted, Trai chairman, N Misra, declined to comment.
Telecom operators say they are commercially insulated from the telemarketing, but argue that harsh action will affect many jobs in the telemarketing sector. The reality may be different. Mobile companies get paid 30 paise for every minute of an incoming call.
The total revenues from the telemarketing business are, therefore, not insignificant. "Mobile companies' commercial interests are inevitably linked to those of telemarketers," says a telecom analyst.
Some estimates place the size of this unregulated industry at Rs 10,000 crore. According to the Trai, over 10 billion unsolicited telemarketing calls are made in India every year. "The sector employs roughly 2-2.5 lakh people, and is likely to suffer a huge setback if it is shut down by the SC. Telemarketers average revenues per user (ARPU) are upwards of Rs 3,000 to 4,000/month" confesses a source in a telecom firm.
There are similarities between the pesky call and the CNG case that was pushed through by SC. In the CNG matter, similar arguments of resistance like job losses, lower costs and consumer interests were cited. The SC eventually cast those aside. It's to be seen if the SC will do the same with pesky calls.
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