In a bid to check the fraudulent callers and spammers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed a unified know-your-customer system for all telecom operators. 

Speaking at the India Mobile Congress, TRAI chairman, PD Vaghela said, "There should be a unified KYC (know-your-customer) system. All telecom operators should be able to use it. This we are going to include in one of the consultation papers, which we are going to issue on compulsory caller ID display," Vaghela said.

The development comes as India has witnessed a surge in fraudulent callers and spammers over the past few years. According to the 2021 Truecaller Global Scam report, India grabbed the fourth spot, after Brazil, Peru, and Ukraine, for the number of spam sales and telemarketing calls in the country. According to the report, 93.5% of the spam calls were sales related, whereas 3.1% of spam calls were related to financial services. 

At present, identifying the culprit who engages in fraudulent activities has been one of the major challenges for TRAI to curtail fraudulent calls. Owing to this, the telecom regulator is exploring several mechanisms while working along with service providers. 

The proposed unified KYC aligns with the Telecom Bill, which has the provision of ‘protection of users’ and dealing with spam calls and “unsolicited” promotional messages. The government has proposed one year of imprisonment for anyone who engages in giving false identity while availing the telecom services. The draft bill states that “the identity of a person sending a message using telecommunication services shall be available to the user receiving such message, in such form as may be prescribed.” 

The Telecom Bill, which was introduced in early September this year, has been sent for discussions with various stakeholders in the industry. The bill is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the parliament. 

Last month, the telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the protection of users’ would not be limited to landline and normal voice calls but calls made via WhatsApp, Zoom, and FaceTime will also be included in the new telecom bill. 

“All of you know that there has been a rise in cases where people get a call saying I am calling from XYZ bank seeking financial details leading to fraud... or you get threats from unknown numbers... so we have introduced a lot of points for user protection and to prevent cyber fraud.. we have dealt with this issue head-on...” Vaishnaw had said.

“Whichever type of call it is, if someone is calling me, I have the right to know who is calling. This is a right that every user has and it has now been put into the Act. There has to be a light touch but focused and effective regulation which is primarily focused on the protection of users,” he added.

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