I think short messaging service, or SMS, as we know it better has become redundant. I am not saying this because Black Berry messenger has gained in popularity over the past few years nor am I referring to applications such as WhatsApp for that matter. The only reason I say this is because SMS nowadays is as good as spam. Over the last two blogs we discussed how spam works and the repercussions it can have on companies, big or small, leading to lawsuits which may even run into billions of dollars. Let’s assume that on average one receives 100 texts in a day. Out of these 100 texts, 90 are from marketers, or are unsolicited messages. Yes there is a word for it, and we all know it fairly well by now-spam. Believe it or not this does count as spam;in fact it is spam for the SMS world. It is uncalled for, bugs you at possibly the most unusual time of the day and intrudes your inbox making you check your phone only having to delete the message without even bothering to read it.
From telemarketers, to telecom service providers and even marketers, each and everyone of them has exploited bulk text messaging to its fullest. It is nothing short of torture for consumers. But hold on, the situation isn’t going to remain asbad as it is today. The Government is out to check and contain this malpractice for good. But before we break the good news to you, let us make you familiar with how rampant this practice has become and how large its scale really is.
• 851 million-number of India’s mobile phone subscribers as of June 30, 2011
• 75 million-number of unsolicited bulk SMSes that are sent out every day
• 80-125 cr- Estimated market size of bulk SMS industry
• 3-11 paise-cost of sending out one bulk SMS
• 90%-the percentage of property related messages which are unsolicited
How do you receive such an SMS?
1. A client approaches a telemarketer who typically offers an SMS for about 3 paise to 10 paise per text. Price and quantity vary inversely, higher the quantity desired; lower is the cost of each sms sent out
2. The telemarketer contacts specialized firms that have back end tie-ups with telecom operators. At this stage each such firm charges a margin of about 2p per sms
3. Telemarketers get access to the website to upload the body for the message as well as the mobile numbers from the database. And within the blink of an eyelid, lakhs of mobile phones all over the country receive such texts leaving users like you and I annoyed, very very annoyed.
A telemarketer needs only a computer and the Internet to make life miserable for all of us. Specialized agencies sell large databases of mobile numbers and even email addresses. These databases are built up from courier services, shopping malls, possibly some banks, and any other place that provides access to potential customers. A database of about one lakh numbers cost about Rs 50,000.
Now let’s talk about the solution on offer. The government is introducing a DND (Do Not Disturb) number to curb unsolicited text messages. Now mobile phone users can block SMSes by calling or sending a text message to the National Do-Not Call registry (NDNC). The new practice will be in place in the coming six weeks as announced by the telecom minister Kapil Sibal on 22nd August 2011. Mobile phone users can opt for not receiving text messages in seven categories like real estate, credit cards, consumer durables, banking and finance by registering their number in National Do-Not-Call (NDNC) registry by calling or sending a SMS to toll-free number 1909
The government is going to make sure that the telemarketers are not going to have it easy. The first offence will invite anRs 25000 penalty and a similar amount shall be imposed on five later instances after which the telemarketer’s registration shall be cancelled. Defaulters may even be blacklisted. Although this is clearly not at par with CAN-SPAM laws, but it is definitely a good first step that our government has taken. It would be great if it would implement similar strategies to curb email spam. But till then, as we always say make sure your email campaigns remain spam free.