The emergence of e-wallets brought along with itself a big uprise in notorious phishing scammers who prey on unsuspecting consumers by pretending to be KYC execs, support personnel and so on.
This is why, the homegrown unicorn Paytm, seeing how telcos have repeatedly failed to curb the phishing activities leading to financial loss, filed a defamation lawsuit for Rs 100 crores against them in May.
Now, following up on the same, today it has come to light that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has slapped a total of Rs 35 crore fine on 8 telecom operators including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, and several others as they didn’t respond to the show-cause notice issued highlighting their incompetency in stopping the scamsters.
The penalty was also imposed on Vodafone Idea Ltd, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Tata Teleservices as they too have defaulted on the same grounds.
According to an affidavit filed by TRAI, the highest fine has been slapped on BSNL which amounts to Rs 30.1 crores as industry officials believe close to 60-70% of the phishing attempts come from the BSNL network. Apart from that, the regulator imposed Rs 1.82 crores fine on Vi, Rs 1.41 crores on Quadrant and Rs 1.33 crores on Bharti Airtel.
In the affidavit filed on Monday, TRAI has said that they are allowed to impose financial disincentives on any telecom access provider who fails to curb Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) as per regulation 27 of Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR), 2018.
Note here that TRAI, however, wouldn’t have been able to impose any penalties without giving the telecom operators sufficient time in order to block the phishing activities on their networks. Thus, it seems like both BSNL and other telcos failed to comply with the UCC guidelines within the allotted time, which has now lead to them attracted the penalty.
The defamation lawsuit filed by One97 Communications in May got support in September when the technology industry body, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) along with digital fintech firms such as PhonePe and MobiKwik also filed a writ intervention appeal at the Delhi High Court wanting to side with PayTM in the ongoing case.
PhonePe and MobiKwik, in their intervention appeal, said that they had been very adversely affected by the phishing activities which have been coming from various mobile networks as well. Thus they should be given a chance to join the fight against telcos too.
A senior lawyer, under the condition of anonymity, said that TRAI will now move to implement strict regulations on TCCCPR for the violations which continued in April to June.
Thus, consumers can be assured that they won’t be annoyed by unsolicited communication from telemarketers or phishing attacks in the long run.
He also mentioned that this penalty was TRAI giving a firm warning to telcos to be more vigilant about what is happening on their networks.
One97 Communications has not yet commented on this progress; however, it is likely that the news has been received as a victory by them along with all other major e-wallet majors in the countries.
The incessant phishing attacks have long been causing severe financial damages to unsuspecting consumers, and thus it is high time telcos pick up the slack and try to stop these malicious activities. We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.