Telecom regulator Trai has withdrawn its more than six-year old direction placing restrictions on international call facility for pre-paid SIMs to protect consumers from missed call scam known as Wangiri calls. The move came after the industry informed the regulator about steps being taken to shield subscribers from such international phone call frauds, according to Trai.
Wangiri, a Japanese word which means one ring and drop, is a phone scam where typically automated systems are used to make short and random calls to mobile phone numbers, leaving behind a missed number that is either premium or has promotional messages, all in the hope that the unsuspecting recipient will call back.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had issued a direction in September 2012 asking access service providers to ensure that no ISD facility is activated on pre-paid SIMs without explicit consent of the consumer. The move was aimed at protecting the interest of the consumer.
At that time, Trai had also asked players to inform all pre-paid subscribers that their existing ISD facility would be discontinued after 60 days and that subscribers would have to give their explicit consent if they wanted to continue with said facility, the regulator explained in its directive on the issue.
Industry body Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), however, went into an appeal against the directive before the telecom tribunal and the latter, in an order dated September 18, 2012, asked Trai not to take any coercive steps.
"...Tribunal vide its order dated November 2, 2012 delivered a split verdict, whereby, the Chairperson quashed the impugned direction while the Member quashed the Appeal...and whereas the authority filed an application requesting the Hon'ble Tribunal to re-hear the appeal," TRAI said.
While the matter is in the telecom tribunal, industry body COAI in 2016 submitted proposals to TRAI on ways to address the problem of wangiri calls and subsequently in December 2018 and January 2019 informed the regulator about steps already implemented including identification of suspected codes from 46 countries and pre-call announcement while calling to such codes.
COAI also requested Trai to issue directions to International Long Distance Operators to block the incoming calls from the identified codes.
"... COAl re-affirmed their proposals dated 04.0l.2019 and also confirmed identification of all suspected premium charging codes and implementation of pre-call announcement to such codes by their member operators in all circles. Further, they informed that member operators are proactively sending SMS to customers warning them not to respond to calls from unknown international numbers with prefix other than +91," Trai said.
Trai added, "...the authority...for the reasons mentioned...and in order to protect the interest of consumers, hereby withdraws its direction dated 7th September, 2012".