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The Delhi High Court today issued notice in a petition by Paytm seeking damages of Rs 100 crores from telecom companies including BSNL, Vodafone, MTNL, Airtel and Reliance Jio for damage to their brand and reputation due to “phishing” activities over the various mobile networks.
(paytm vs UOI)
(One97 Communication vs UOI - writ)
Notice to Central Government, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), telcos BSNL, Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance Jio and others was issued by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.
The Petitioners have contended that millions of their customers have been defrauded by the “phishing” activities taking place over telecommunications networks.
Phishing refers to fraudsters spamming the Petitioners’ customers by using telecom network architecture on a massive scale.
While claiming to be Petitioners’ representatives, unsolicited commercial communications, SMS or voice calls are sent to induce the Petitioners’ customers to part with sensitive data which enables the fraudsters to divert the customers’ funds to their own accounts, it is explained.
Phishing violates the fundamental right to privacy and data integrity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Petitioners have argued.
The Petitioners have asserted that under the present statutory regime, it is the responsibility and the exclusive ability of telcos to prevent such fraud and deter fraudsters through blocking and/or financial disincentives.
It is added that this "mass fraud" is a direct result of the telcos flouting the Telecommunication Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, 2018.
The Petitioners have stated that under the Regulations, the telcos are under an obligation to verify the purported telemarketers which are seeking registration, before granting them access to the customer database.
It is added that the telcos are also obligated to refrain from issuing SMS headers to allow transmission of content purporting to be from Petitioners or its related entities from unauthorised registered telemarketers.
The Petitioners have contended that immediate remedial action should also be taken against all fraudulent registered telemarketers by the telcos in terms of the Regulations.
The Petitioners have also assailed the failure of the Central Government to curb the sale of sim cards without proper verification.
The Petitioners have thus sought a series of directions to protect its customers and business reputation, including a direction to TRAI to ensure complete and strict implementation of Regulations to curb "fraudulent unsolicited commercial communication" sent over telecom networks.
Apart from seeking damages from the telcos, the Petitioners have also prayed for action against the telcos for violating their primary obligations of prevention and verification under the regulatory framework.
The matter would be heard next on June 24.
One97 Communication was represented by Senor Advocate Dushyant Dave and Advocates Amit Kumar Singh, Preethviraj Singh Zala, Ragini Nagpal.
Paytm Bank was represented by Advocates Karuna Nundy, Dharmender Jambh, Ruchira Goel.
Read the Order:
Read the Petition: