Telecom regulator Trai will hold a session this month with industry experts to examine concerns over unsolicited online video ads that download automatically without consumers’ knowledge, pushing up their data costs inadvertently. The Trai seminar, being organised in Hyderabad on October 24, will help the regulator to look at the issue in-depth and decide whether such downloads need to be regulated, officials said. “These unsolicited ads on some sites and well as social media platforms which download automatically without the consumers’ knowledge, lead to data consumption. The question is should there be rules and regulations around them?, given the non-transparent way in which data usage is happening,” said an official.
Officials also pointed out that the issue is not about content regulation as Trai is not checking the content of these online ads. “It is about the non-transparent way in which data usage is happening. At about 20-30 paise per MB, data is expensive. So the issue needs to be examined,” said the official.
In the first phase, Trai plans to hold this seminar comprising industry experts, telecom service providers and internet as well as social media companies with panel discussion on the issue. “We want to understand how much data is being consumed by these ads, what can users do to stop them, do the sites allow users the option to stop the ads, is there an upper limit which ensures that data usage should not go beyond a certain level,” the official said.
Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad is the academic partner for the upcoming seminar.
Officials declined to comment on whether or not this will lead to a consultation paper being issued on the topic. “The seminar is an initial step and will help us to identify issues. For example, can these videos have maximum data consumption or time limit, beyond which the videos should stop unless explicitly chosen by the consumer. Or, are these so hidden in the settings that the general public is now aware of the options available,” the official said.