The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday asked telecom operators to stop the misuse of message templates used for commercial communication within the next 45 days. The directive comes amid misuse of content templates by the companies involved in sending commercial messages which tweak variables in the messages largely for spamming the consumers.

Telcos only own the network, whereas the promotional messages are sent by enterprises through registered telemarketers on the distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms. DLT platforms, managed by telecom operators, require businesses involved in bulk promotional or transactional SMS to register by submitting their business details, including sender IDs and SMS templates.

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In a direction, the telecom regulator has asked telcos to only allow only three variables in a content template. However, if any entity wishes to use more than three variables in a content template for sending communication to their users, the same should be allowed only after examining the sample message, and proper reasons and justification.

Variables refer to the parts of a commercial message that companies modify to tailor communications to different recipients with similar subjects. For example, variables may include the recipient’s name, the amount involved, date format, etc.

“TRAI has mandated that access providers shall have to designate a separate approving authority for such content templates (involving over three variables). Each variable part needs to be pre-tagged for the purpose it is proposed to be used,” the regulator said in a release.

In February, Trai directed telcos to block all unverified and unused headers and templates within 30 days and 60 days, respectively. However, at that time, the companies did not inform Trai that there were some genuine templates, like templates for IRCTC ticketing information, stock trading information, information with respect of sugarcane procurement and settlement, etc, which require more than three variables and hence limit of upto three variables in content template is not sufficient.

Certain variables, such as names, addresses, etc., require more than 30 characters, and not allowing two consecutive variables restrict the completeness of information in respect of name, address, etc., Trai said, explaining the reason behind notifying the telecom operators on new rules.

Trai further directed the telecom companies that minimum 30% of content in a message should be fixed so that intent of the original message for which the content template was approved remains intact, and is not changed by the intermediaries.

In order to send communication to end users, there are three stakeholders involved – enterprises (who want to send communication in the form of voice, SMS), CPaaS players or telemarketers which send bulk SMS/calls on behalf of enterprises and provide application integration with the telecom network, and third player is the telecom operator which owns the network and the distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms.

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“It has also been decided that only whitelisted URLs/ Apks / OTT links/call back numbers shall be allowed in the content template,” Trai said.

Meanwhile, Trai has informally granted additional time to telecom operators and principal entities to implement its previously issued directives aimed at curbing the misuse of headers and message templates.

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