TRAI calls Paytm plea 'misconceived'
The telecom regulator TRAI has termed as "misconceived" the plea moved in the Delhi High Court by online payment platform Paytm alleging that telecom operators are not blocking "phishing" activities over various mobile networks. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has made the submission in an affidavit filed in the high court in response to the petition by One97 Communications Ltd, which runs Paytm.
The matter was taken up by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan which said the affidavit was not on record.
The court also adjourned the matter to July 14 to go through the various replies filed by the Centre, telecom companies like Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio, and TRAI on the issue of phishing alleged by the Paytm.
Phishing is a cyber crime where people are contacted by e-mail, phone calls or text messages by someone posing as a legitimate representative of a organisation to lure them to part with their sensitive data, including banking and credit card details and passwords.
During the brief hearing held via video conferencing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Paytm, said that everyone was in agreement that the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preferences Regulations (TCCCPR) 2018, which was notified by the TRAI to curb problem of unsolicited commercial communications, has to be strictly implemented in consumers interest.
He said if a direction to strictly implement the regulations is issued then the matter can be disposed of.
The Centre, in its reply filed through its standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, has said it has directed all TSPs to ensure sim card are not issued or activated without proper verification in order to address security related issues.
It also said that it was closely monitoring the activation process and was also working on complaints received from individual subscribers or from industry with regard to unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) and was taking necessary action on a case to case basis.
The telecom regulator in its reply has said that ordinary citizens/subscribers can complain under the TCCCPR with regard to UCCs. However, for business entities like Paytm, the procedure is different, it added.
"The petitioners' (One97 and Paytm) major concerns are related to fraudulent activities which require coordination among multiple agencies.
"TCCCPR, 2018 mainly deals with UCC," TRAI has said and added that the regulations "are not meant to deal with fraudulent messages".
It said if any telecom user, who is also a customer of the Paytm, receives an UCC which he has not opted for as per the provisions of TCCCPR 2018, he is free to report the same to his TSP for resolution and to take necessary action against the defaulter.
If a business entity faces a service problem with a TSP there is a system for lodging complaints which is distinct from TCCCPR, TRAI has said.
With regard to Paytm's opposition to the graded penalty provision in TCCCPR, instead of instant disconnection, TRAI has said swift disconnection on the first violation "would cause disproportionate harm".
It said such a step would not only take away the ability to send any message but such an action also disconnects access to the digital world using that number for other purposes.
"Disconnection also breaks the link to reach out to the violator and find out the reasons and guide the violator to follow the norms. Graded penalty clubbed with provisions of putting usage caps, enables to discipline violators - especially violators who are unaware of such regulatory requirements," TRAI has said.
TRAI has said that entities like Paytm were required to register themselves and their headers with the TSPs as per the TCCCPR 2018.
However, Paytm got itself first registered with MTNL only in February this year, it said and added that despite that the company's earlier emails regarding suspected headers were forwarded to all TSPs for necessary action.
Examples of some registered headers are -- Paytm, PYTM, PTM, IPAYTN, PYTKYC.
TRAI has also said that there has been no failure in implementation of the "statutory and technological architecture" provided under TCCCPR.
Paytm has claimed that millions of its customers have been defrauded by the phishing activities over the mobile networks and the failure of the telecom companies to prevent the same has "caused financial and reputational loss" to it for which it has sought damages of Rs 100 crore from them.
Paytm has contended that the telecom majors are violating their obligations under the TCCCPR 2018.
It has also sought direction to the Centre to ensure no sim card is sold without proper verification and to establish an inter-agency task force to coordinate action for limiting fraud taking place over telecom networks.