India's Do Not Call Registry: A Failure

As far as I’m concerned, the India’s Do-Not-Call registry has failed. I registered on September 11th 2007, and calls from telemarketers were supposed to stop by the 25th of October (45 days). Around the 4th of December, the calls had started again: a call every other day, and a marketing SMS daily. In all, I registered 6-8 complaints with my mobile operator (Airtel). On one occasion, the call center representative even refused to register a complaint, saying one had already been registered against another telemarketer the day before. The complaints were to be dealt with by the 10th of January. A message from Airtel, dated the 11th of Jan, states: “Your DND request is related to another service provider. We have forwarded your complaint to them for necessary action.” I’m not even sure if anything has been done about it, and the move to set up a registry appears to be an eyewash.

The fines for telemarketers were supposed to be Rs. 500 per call/message, though I wonder if the cost vs benefit works in the telemarketers favor. Keeping that in mind, the TRAI is considering increasing the fine to Rs. 500 for the first complaint, and Rs. 1000 for every subsequent complaint. That won’t make much of a difference. The failure of the registry may also be due to the lack of signups – only 7.5 million users have registered, and 12183 telemarketers have subscribed to the list. 78 million numbers have been cleared for calling. So even if telemarketers have to shell out a fine every now and then, it’s probably not much. What the TRAI got wrong: there’s no guarantee of enforcement, and it takes too long. Also, the onus should have been put on the telecom companies that provide phone connections to the telemarketers to block calls to these numbers, and not the marketers themselves. At the root of the problem, of course, are banks and financial institutions like Barlcays Bank (called me last week), ICICI Bank (yesterday), ABN-Amro (today), among several others. I’m dreading the next couple of months, since the insurance companies are most active around the end of the year.