The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has slapped a collective penalty of Rs 35 crore on leading operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), as they failed to respond properly to a show-cause notice on phishing activities on their networks. The regulator has also fined Videocon, Tata Teleservices, Quadrant Teleservices and state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.
The penalty on these eight telecom operators was levied for failing to stop cybercriminals from sending fake text messages to dupe digital payment users.
The highest fine of Rs 30.1 crore was imposed on state-owned entity BSNL as nearly 60-70 per cent of phishing attempts have been on its network. Vodafone Idea has been fined Rs 1.82 crore, Quadrant Rs 1.41 crore, and Airtel Rs 1.33 crore.
Phishing is a cybercrime where people are contacted by email, phone calls or text messages by someone posing as a legitimate representative of an organisation to lure them to part with their sensitive data, like banking credentials, credit card details and passwords.
In June this year, One97 Communications Ltd, the parent of online payment platform Paytm, had moved the Delhi High Court alleging that telecom operators are not blocking fraudsters who are defrauding its customers via phishing activities. Paytm, in its petition, has contended that the telecom service providers are violating their obligations under the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preferences Regulations (TCCCPR), 2018, which was notified by the TRAI to curb problem of unsolicited commercial communications.
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. The digital payments major had even sought compensation of Rs 100 crore from the telcos for this.
In September, fintech companies including PhonePe and MobiKwik also filed an intervention plea at the Delhi High Court to become a party in the One97 Communications versus telcos case.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs