High Court gives Trai, operators six weeks to show progress in curbing pesky calls

Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications had approached the court, accusing Trai, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam of not doing enough to curb pesky calls and messages and phishing attempts. It sough...

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court gave the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and operators six weeks to show progress in acting against those flouting a regulation aimed at curbing pesky calls, messages and phishing attempts.

“At this stage, we are adjourning the matter for six weeks so that progress can be made by Trai,” Chief Justice DN Patel said on Tuesday.

Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications had approached the court, accusing Trai, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam of not doing enough to curb pesky calls and messages and phishing attempts. It sought Rs 100 crore in damages for the failure of the operators, which had caused it financial and reputational loss. Trai and the telcos have rejected Paytm’s charges.


At the next hearing scheduled on August 28, Trai is required to tell the court what action it has taken on registering telemarketers, known as principal entities, and assigning them unique identities, or headers.

Trai’s counsel Arjun Natrajan told the court that 20,000 principal entities and 80,000 headers had been registered on the platform as of date.

Justice Patel asked the counsel how much time it would take for 900,000 headers, based on data produced by Paytm, to get on board at this pace.
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“If someone is not following the law, are you so powerless that you are not taking action? Have you taken even a single action against any of these persons?” Patel asked about unregistered entities sending fraud messages.

He said Trai is not expected to act against all unregistered headers overnight, “but at least show us something for the court to decide.”

Trai had notified regulations in July 2018 to curb unsolicited commercial communications. The regulations provide for registration of telemarketers and the consent of subscribers and the use of distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, for commercial messaging.

While the telcos claimed that there has been no unregistered traffic on their networks since June 1, Paytm produced data to the contrary.
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Justice Prateek Jalan asked Paytm’s counsel Dushyant Dave what would Paytm’s prayer be if all parties, including the digital payments company, are in favour of strict implementation of the regulation.

Dave responded by alleging that the telcos took non-compliance by telemarketers for granted and collaborated with them to make money out of such frauds and so they are liable for penalties. The allegation was immediately rejected by the counsels of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel for “defaming” their clients.
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Dave said Paytm’s only contention is that even two years after banning communications by unregistered telemarketers, no action has been taken or penalty imposed for such violations.

“Our humble submission to my lordships is that the law is crystal clear that unregistered commercial communications are banned,” Dave said. “Even if they take eight weeks, I have no problem, but… I urge my lordships to kindly understand that this is causing harm… middle-class people who are using Paytm are being defrauded.”

He added that neither Paytm nor the telcos are expected to compensate for customer losses, but only expected to follow the law in letter and spirit.
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