Google has disabled businesses from using RCS for ads in India, the tech giant’s biggest market by user numbers. The move came after reports of unhindered spam by some companies. It creates a setback for the standard that Google hopes to help become the future of SMS, Short Message Service.
RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is a collective effort of multiple industry players to ramp up traditional SMS with modern features like end-to-end encryption and richer texts.
Google, Samsung, and other companies, including telecom operators, have launched support for RCS to hundreds of millions of users globally over the past few years. Last month, Google claimed that the RCS messaging in its Android app, Messages, had amassed more than 500 million monthly active users.
Last month, the tech giant also urged “every mobile OS (in a subtle jab at Apple) to support RCS” at its developer conference. It asserted that RCS aims to help businesses reach users more interactively.
Some features also include categorizing and chatting with others, similar to Apple’s iMessage.
The Issue with RCS
However, the issue is that multiple businesses across India, including top banks and other lending businesses, have been abusing the feature to send unsolicited promotional materials to any phone number they could find in the country.
Google Messages is becoming the worst possible Google app.
The amount of ads its sending is crazy, multiple every day. Yes, these are NOT messages, these are ads being pushed by the app to 🇮🇳 Indian users.
It's the default messaging app on most Android phones here. 😑 pic.twitter.com/8EYnIh5cd9
— Ishan Agarwal (@ishanagarwal24) May 16, 2022
If you're wondering just how bad the ads in Google Messages can get, I got all these in just the last 7 hours. Amazing.
— Ishan Agarwal (@ishanagarwal24) May 17, 2022
Users reported a deluge of ads, primarily related to loans, insurance, and gambling companies. Multiple reports claimed that the issue has been around for over a year, and “complaints seem to be coming overwhelmingly from India-based users.”
“The trend first blew up with Bajaj Finserve, Kotak Mahindra Bank, PolicyBazaar, RummyCircle, AdsMania, Cars24; they are among the biggest offenders,” claimed reports.
While many brands worldwide use SMS texts and messaging apps to advertise new offers and products, the ads in India “are not necessarily the result of a user’s purchasing activity,” reports noted.
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Last month, several users took to Twitter to voice their discontent, and it seems that their words have reached Google.
“Some businesses are exploiting our anti-spam standards to send advertising materials to users in India,” Google said in a statement. As a result, Google has disabled the feature while it “works with the industry to augment the user experience.”
The Silicon Valley titan has positioned the app as the future of SMS, and most Android smartphones in India come with the Google Messaging app as the default messaging app. Hence, it is understandable while it is frustrating for users and Google.
The RCS messaging, designed for businesses to reach their users more interactively, has only encouraged spending spam to users with unlimited ads. And it was only possible because there were too few checks and balances that could prevent them from sending spam to users – in most cases without their consent.
While disabling the feature is a good move, Google should focus on revamping its model and ensuring that Indian users don’t have a bad time even with RCS enabled.