The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice in a plea 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.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to Central Government, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), telcos BSNL, Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance Jio and others.
The Petitioners contended that millions of their customers have been defrauded due to the “phishing” activities taking place over telecommunications networks.
Phishing refers to fraudulently 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 were sent to induce the Petitioners’ customers to part with sensitive data which enabled the fraudsters to divert the customers’ funds to their own accounts.
The petitioner argues that Phishing violates the fundamental right to privacy and data integrity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Petitioners also asserted that under the present statutory regime, it is the responsibility and the exclusive duty of telcos to prevent such fraud and deter fraudsters through blocking and/or financial disincentives.
It was added that this “mass fraud” was a direct result of the telcos flouting the Telecommunication Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, 2018.
Under the Regulations, the telcos are under an obligation to:
– Verify purported telemarketersseeking before granting them access to the customer database;
– Refrain from issuing headers or allow SMS contentpurporting to be from Petitioners paytm or its related entities from unauthorised registered telemarketers; and
– Take immediate remedial actionagainst all fraudulent registered telemarketers.
The Petitioners also citicised the failure of the Central Government to curb the sale of sim cards without proper verification.
The Petitioners hence 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 paytm also prayed for action against the telcos for violating their primary obligations of prevention and verification under the regulatory framework.
The matter will next be heard on June 24.
The Petitioner was represented by Advocate Karuna Nundy.