It's difficult to understand why any recommendation in India has to go back and forth multiple times before it finally takes the shape of a regulation.
Take the National Do Not Call (NDNC) registry, as an example. The NDNC registry came into effect in September last year and was meant for people who do not wish to be disturbed by pesky telemarketers.
It appears pretty simple to implement. You register for it and telemarketers stop calling you. But alas, it isn't as simple as that. While writing this blog, I received one marketing call and one SMS message from telemarketers. This, when I had registered for NDNC back in September 2007.
A lot of people I know registered for NDNC registry last year and were told that it would become effective within 45 days of registry. But alas, for them, the marketing calls and SMS messages did not stop.
The number of subscribers enrolled under NDNC registry is rather small--8.3 million out of the 240 million telephone subscribers in India. These are probably people in the large cities, who lead a high-stress lifestyle and hate being disturbed in the middle of work by a telemarketer. But then, they are probably the ones with the maximum purchasing power and are a valued customer segment for the telemarketers.
Also, the US$12.35 (500 rupee per minute) fine was not enough of a disincentive for the telemarketers to abide by the NDNC registry list. And it also wasn't a good enough incentive for more subscribers (registered under NDNC) to file a complaint everytime they received a marketing call.
However, yesterday's TRAI recommendation--whereby the penalty has been raised to US$123.6 (5000 rupee) for the first call, going up US$494 (20,000 rupee) for subsequent calls--should definitely help. Ironically, this penalty applies to the telecom operators, and not the telemarketers. The fine on telemarketers is a lot lower-- US$12.30 (500 rupee) for the first unsolicited call and US$24.7 (1,000 rupee) for every subsequent call.
Obviously, the service providers are unhappy.
They say the TRAI is punishing intermediaries and the penalty is grossly unfair. It will certainly not be easy for operators to stop telemarketers from calling subscribers. Now, it appears that telecom operators will come together to put forth their case to the TRAI. There will be more back and forth on this one.
Meanwhile, subscribers have to live with telemarketing calls. Like junk mail, this is one menace that won't disappear easily.