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    Bharti Airtel Fined ₹1.79 Lakh by DoT for Subscriber Verification Violations

    Bharti Airtel has been fined Rs. 1.79 lakh by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the Punjab licensed service area (LSA). The company’s exchange filing on May 28 mentioned that the DoT conducted a sample customer application form (CAF) audit in March, wherein it found Airtel to be violative of the terms and conditions for subscriber verification norms under the license agreement. The DoT had previously fined the company Rs. 1.56 lakh in the Punjab LSA for the same violation, which was discovered in the authority’s February audit.

    DoT has issued specific instructions for subscriber verification for both individual customers and businesses. For activation of individual mobile connections, DoT issued instructions in August 2012, stating that mobile connections would be activated only after a customer fills up a CAF and provides proof of address and proof of identity along with the form. The CAF is required to be verified by an employee of a telco. This information is also required to be maintained as a part of the telco’s database. If there are any errors in the information recorded, the DoT can levy penalties on the telecom operators. For business connections, the DoT requires telcos to verify the end customer (the employee using a connection) and not just the business.

    Why does subscriber verification matter?

    Subscriber verification allows telecom companies to ensure that the person being issued a connection is its actual user. If connections are activated without proper verification of the user’s identity and address, it becomes easier for unscrupulous individuals or entities to obtain connections using fake or incomplete information. These connections can then be used for making spam/scam calls and messages. 

    The DoT and the Ministry of Home Affairs have recently taken active steps to curb spam/scam calls and messages. As per press releases issued earlier this month, the two issued directions to telcos to block 28,200 mobile handsets that were using 20 lakh mobile numbers and were being misused in cybercrime. 

    It is interesting to note here that in its recommendations proposing a caller identification system for the telecom industry, TRAI has said that callers should be identified based on the information provided by them in their CAFs. The penalties being imposed on Airtel suggest that there are shortcomings in the subscriber verification carried out by these CAFs, which would lead to inaccurate caller identification. This inaccurate identification would defeat the very purpose of the caller identification system, which is to ensure that callers don’t end up picking up spam calls. [ Note: We have an opinion piece highlighting other issues with the caller identification system. You can read that here.]

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    The post Bharti Airtel Fined ₹1.79 Lakh by DoT for Subscriber Verification Violations appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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