Largest hike ever: Telemarketers cry foul as telcos hike bulk SMS fees by 25%-30%


New Delhi: Telemarketing expenses for enterprises are set to soar beginning next month as telecom operators have hiked commercial bulk SMS charges by 25%-30% – the largest hike ever – following the implementation of blockchain technology to check spam SMS traffic.

The likes of Tata Communications, Videocon, Route Mobile, ACL Mobile, ValueFirst, Gupshup and close to 50,000 telemarketers, third-party aggregators and resellers of messaging services who pay around 9 – 10 paise/SMS to telcos now, are hit by an added charge of 2.5 paise/SMS.

“This is a fairly steep hike by telcos and may directly impact marketing budgets in almost every sector such as banking, retail, e-commerce, delivery apps etc who send millions of transactional, promotional and service messages to their customers every day,” said Anurag Aggarwal, director – messaging services at Tata Communications.

Approximately, a billion SMSes are sent via registered headers per day in India, out of which 60% – 70% are transactional in nature, while the balance 30% – 40% are promotional, Aggarwal said.

“Due to the added cost, ultimately, brands may either cut down their promotional traffic or – depending on cost viability – explore other feature-rich OTT platforms such as Whatsapp Business Messaging to send personalised marketing content,” he added.

Also known as the DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) scrubbing charge, it is the cost for operators to check the flow of unregistered SMS headers or content over their networks and match senders according to customers’ DND (Do Not Disturb) preferences.

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea didn’t respond to ET’s emailed queries.

Small telemarketers said the move is a “death knell” for them as well as several small enterprises who are increasingly dependent on tele-advertising in the midst of a pandemic.

“My question to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is that why should we (telemarketers) pay telecom companies for a service which we were doing free of cost,” said Alok Nath Pathak, Director of a Delhi-based messaging service provider ValueMobi Media.

Prior to TRAI’s mandate on implementing DLT, scrubbing and blocking of unsolicited communication was done by registered telemarketers against DND data access provided to them by the regulator.

“We understand that DLT is crucial to prevent financial frauds via SMS, but why should a genuine 12-year-old registered entity like us pay the price for vices of the few who will continue frauds unabated through other platforms,” Pathak said.

TRAI’s regulation for deploying the DLT to curb the menace of spam has been facing a lot of flak lately including lawsuits by the likes of Paytm. The payments company has alleged in the Delhi High Court that telecom companies and TRAI have failed to ensure strict implementation of the regulation. Whereas telemarketers Venets Media and Insight Consultancy in two separate petitions have pleaded the withdrawal of the regulation since it allows sharing of data with blockchain designer Tanla Solutions, which is also their rival telemarketer.

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