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INDIA: End of texting spam, masala style

September 28, 2011 |  5:51 pm

India-mobile

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI, INDIA -- Slim down. Goose your sex life. Buy a dream home. De-fang auntie’s evil eye -- all at the click of a button.

Indian cellphone users have faced dozens, sometimes hundreds, of short-message advertisements at all hours of the day and night.

So this week when India’s telecomm regulator hit short-message, or SMS, telecomm advertisers with some of the toughest anti-spam rules in the world, you’d have expected universal high-fives and whoops of delight.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Although many people talked about having their lives and personal space back -– did a few SMSs really take all that away? -– others say the policy is a case of good bureaucratic intentions gone bad.

One of the changes since the rule went into effect Tuesday involves capping everyone’s outgoing text messages at 100 a day for each cellphone number, with a few exceptions such as e-ticketing agencies, banks and social networking sites.

Though that may seem like a lot of text messages, ordinary folks in India’s vibrant text culture are already complaining that they’re hitting an SMS ceiling. The policy also penalizes the user rather than the spammer, critics say, and hampers personal communication. What if that ‘sweet nothing’ from someone special was that 101st SMS that day?

Opting out of annoying calls and text messages is a voluntary step for consumers, so telemarketers are fighting back with barrages of emails trying to convince consumers how great they are and what wonderful (spam, spam) service they provide.

Lest you foolishly think spam will disappear overnight, they’re also working to craft alternatives to SMS spam, including email links for smartphone users and Twitter-like advertising feeds.

India has a long history of imposing strict rules that aren’t necessarily implemented. For the time being, however, spammers are being careful. Companies caught communicating five times with users who opt out face a fine of up to $5,300. Those caught six times can be banned.

At least temporarily, however, more Indians are heading to bed without worrying about rogue marketers harassing them in dreamland.

“After years of torture, the SMS nightmare seems to have ended,” proclaimed the Times of India. “Spam out, good riddance!”

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 -- Mark Magnier

Photo: Roshani Munat, 18, holds her Sony Ericsson Mobile smartphone on Aug. 3, 2011, in Mumbai, India. Credit: Kainaz Amaria / Bloomberg

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