TRAI Penalises Airtel Ltd, BSNL, and Jio Over Inaction Regarding Phishing Activities


A penalty has been imposed on Airtel Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, among others by the telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The regulator imposed the penalty as they did not respond appropriately to a show-cause notice issued due to failure to block phishing activities on their networks.

The regulator has also fined Vodafone Idea Ltd, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Tata Teleservices in a case pertaining to One97 Communications Ltd. One97 Communications Ltd., which is the parent of fintech company Paytm, in June had moved to the Delhi High Court against the telecom operators, Trai and center for not blocking those who were defrauding its customers by phishing activities over mobile networks.

The highest fine has been slapped on BSNL. The fine amounting to ₹ 30 crores has been made according to an affidavit filed by the Trai at the Delhi High Court. Industry officials claim that 60-70 percent of the phishing activities have been done over the BSNL network.

In the affidavit filed on Monday, Trai said, “As per regulation 27 of Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR), 2018, the Authority (Trai) may impose financial disincentives on any access provider if it fails to curb Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) through its network.”

TRAI cannot, however, impose a penalty without providing the telecom operators enough time to block the phishing activities. BSNL was issued a show-cause notice twice to comply with UCC guidelines, other telecom operators were asked on October 1st. As the telecom operators failed to comply with the UCC guidelines, the penalty was imposed.

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) along with PhonePe and MobiKwik filed a writ intervention appeal at the Delhi High Court to become a party in the One97 versus telcos case, on 23rd September. The case will be heard by the Court on Wednesday.

The intervention appeal also claimed that fintech such as PhonePe and MobiKwik were also hurt by phishing activities taking place over various mobile networks.

Mint reported comments of an anonymous senior lawyer, who said, “Trai is finally implementing the regulation on TCCCPR for violations which have continued in months of April to June. If this was implemented in the first case, the penalties wouldn’t have to be imposed. In the long term, this is good for Indian customers who are annoyed by unsolicited communication from telemarketers.”

The lawyer also added that via these penalties, Trai is passing a big message to the telecom operators.

The first petition was filed by Paytm in June in which it filed a defamation suit of ₹ 100 crores on telecom operators Airtel, Reliance Jio, BSNL, MTNL, and Vodafone Idea. The defamation suit was filed for not blocking phishing activities over their networks, which led to a financial loss of the company.