Apple Faces Potential Legal Threat From Indian Regulator Over Noncompliance With Anti-Spam iPhone App

Just a few days after Bloomberg revealed Apple's revamped India strategy, including changes that the company hopes will boost its lackluster smartphone market share in the country, a report by Reuters today has pointed out another hurdle for Apple's India plan.

The new report concerns Apple's work with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) over the development of an anti-spam iPhone app, which dates back nearly two years. Indian users constantly have to deal with spam phone calls, leading to the government's decision to build its own smartphone app that would let users mark and report spam callers.


Reuters previously reported in March that work on the app was deadlocked as Apple continuously raised concerns over the privacy implications of allowing the app broad access to customers' calls and text logs. Following months of Apple pointing out privacy loopholes in the app -- which has been available on Android in India since 2016 -- TRAI last month threatened Apple by stating that its smartphones could be "derecognized" from the country's networks.

This means that while iPhones would still be available for purchase in India, users would not be able to connect to any supported cellular network and would lose many of the features that they likely purchased the iPhone for. TRAI's derecognition threat was specified in a letter sent to Indian telecom firms over the summer, notifying the firms that TRAI would give them six months notice to derecognize devices from their networks if the phones in question do not support the anti-spam app.

With that ticking clock looming for Apple, the company recently asked for the clause about derecognition to be removed:
“We look forward to working with TRAI to address the issue of unsolicited commercial communications, while simultaneously ensuring that we fully honor our commitment to protect the privacy and security of our users,” Apple’s head of public policy in India, Kulin Sanghvi, wrote in the letter which was seen by Reuters.
In response to Apple's own letter, TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma said that derecognition could not be "quashed or challenged" by writing a letter, and suggested the disagreement between the two could end up in court:
“The most appropriate way to challenge this is in court,” he said.
As of now, no legal action has yet been taken by either side. The drama over the anti-spam app is just one of numerous headaches for Apple in India, in the past few months including ever-increasing taxes on imported smartphones, rising iPhone prices because of such taxes, and user frustration with poor Apple services.

According to people familiar with the company's plans, its new strategy in India includes better and longer-lasting retail deals with higher sales targets, the opening of official Apple retail stores in India, "overhauling" the company's relationship with independent retailers, and improving apps and services "aimed more closely at Indians." The company is said to focus specifically on Apple Maps in the services area with a "revamped" version of the app coming to Indian users by 2020.

Tag: India


Top Rated Comments

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10 weeks ago
The irony of India complaining about spam calls is not lost on me. :rolleyes:
Rating: 12 Votes
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10 weeks ago
Apple, drop India.

Not worth the effort.

The pissing contest with google is just not worth it, because they'll never sell anything there, the average Indian is 2x poorer than the average Chinese and Google and Microsoft love to dump money in that country without any ROI.

People that still want the iPhone are people that will be okay in smuggling them for cheaper than retail.
Rating: 8 Votes
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10 weeks ago
"Apple continuously raised concerns over the privacy implications of allowing the app broad access to customers' calls and text logs."

Noted. Commendable! Kudos! Atta-boy!

But, but, but... What about China?
Is such concern ameliorated given the potential profit derived off the Chinese marketplace?
Rating: 6 Votes
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10 weeks ago
I get a crap ton of those stupid robo calls as well. I really wish Siri would answer unknown callers, find out what they want, and then shoot me a text to ask if I want to answer it and take a message when I say no.
Rating: 5 Votes
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10 weeks ago

Actually Apple provided more than this kind of feature to Chinese government.

In recent news:

https://telecomtalk.info/apple-writes-to-trai-on-new-spam-calls-blocking-features-coming-with-ios-12/180056/


Exactly, fans rather conveniently forget or show blissfully unaware attitudes to what Apple and the Chinese government have agreed.

I find it utterly laughable Apple thought writing a letter telling a foreign government to change its mind would work! This will go to court and Apple phones will be blocked from use in India till it’s resolved, this is the government of the land, not Samsung in the US.
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Yeah, sure.

Apple should bet instead in Europe, and mainly the Eastern Europe. That's where the people that can actually afford iPhones and use them as smartphones are meant.


Please explain what you mean by ‘use them as smartphones are meant’..... for all I know you could be claiming that those in India are thick and stupid and don’t know how to use a smartphone? Which would be racist and derogatory.
So what exactly do you mean?
Rating: 4 Votes
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10 weeks ago

Apple should bet instead in Europe, and mainly the Eastern Europe. That's where the people that can actually afford iPhones and use them as smartphones are meant.

Nice elitist attitude you have you there. So basically what your saying is "F*** poor people."?
Rating: 4 Votes
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10 weeks ago

Is having an iPhone a human right?

Nice dodge. We're not talking human rights but your pompous attitude that somehow people who can't afford iPhones are less than those who can. Your quote was "That's where the people that can actually afford iPhones and use them as smartphones are meant" So somehow people in India are lesser people because they can't afford iPhones as opposed to people in Europe who can?
Rating: 4 Votes
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10 weeks ago
If Apple allows a state owned app to have "broad access to customers' calls and text logs" in India, you can bet your bottom dollar, every other government in the world will demand the same level of access... then every mobile network operator / carrier (ostensibly to comply with local anti-spam regulations)... and so on.

Don't do it Apple. Find a way of complying with anti-spam laws without syphoning my all "call and text logs" to faceless governments all over the world.
Rating: 3 Votes
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10 weeks ago

Nice elitist attitude you have you there. So basically what your saying is "F*** poor people."?


No, that’s what Apple says with a $1000 phone.
Rating: 3 Votes
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10 weeks ago

It is sad that the Indian government is prioritizing, probably for political purposes, the ability to eliminate spam phone calls over user privacy. As with most things in a capitalist democracy, the end-user should have a choice. If a customer in India would rather buy an iPhone and maintain greater control over their personal information, even if it means a little bit more spam, that should be their choice.

These extreme, string arm measures that the Indian government seems to be implementing on a more frequent basis don’t reflect very well on them.
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Do you honestly think that Apple thought that a letter would change everything? That belief itself is laughable. It is a PR tactic. One of dozens of strategies they are employing to try to achieve their means.



You probably haven't read the article I posted a few posts before. Let me quote what TRAI chief said:

Defending the DND app, Sharma today said that it did not ask for access to all call logs, but rather allows the users to share only details of unsolicited calls or messages.

“Unnecessarily, people are given an impression that our app is asking for wholesale permission to access contacts and call logs...,” Sharma said.

Rating: 2 Votes
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