Jun 1, 2012

The Telecom sector mischief-mongers - don't wait for Anna

The ad by Docomo about "no fine prints" in their tariff plans is sarcastic about the competition. But if biggies like Airtel resort to the "tricks of the trade" I guess they are justified. Hope the ads and articles like these on the net would bring about some awareness and perk up the telco bosses.
Living in a housing-society which has a Airtel hub and being offered a Combo plan giving both broadband (@2.1mbps) and a phone line with Rs 200 worth free calls to any phone made the choice obvious - I had opted for this bill plan way back in 2008. Having had billing issues in the past, it was very comfortable when neither the speed nor the bills were upsetting. Alas ! peace was to last only 3 years !!

One fine evening in Aug 2011 the bill came in and the TV channels were boring. So I found time to scrutinize the bill - an act I am sure nobody finds time for these days. How much on STDs, how much on Internet, and lo ... the discount on phone calls was not there? How come, take out an older bill - yes, it's there, why not in this bill, call customer care, register a complaint - again many customers wouldn't go this far - after all it's only hundred and something rupees - kiske paas time hai?

And that's exactly what these companies bank upon ! Kiske paas time hai - noone will notice! even if they do nobody would complain ! We need a lokpal to rid our society of all evil. Us ? we don't have time !

What followed was emails and counter-emails. What will probably shock you is the number - I diligently kept on reminding - 24 times in 4 months to Nodal officers, Appellate authority and the Ombudsman!! What kept me going were two email acceptances of error in Sept and Oct 2011 and 4 reversals till Nov. So it was working, right?

Wrong ! Come 2012, they stopped responding and the reversals stopped too. Then the phone went dead. But the erroneous billing continued (over a dead phone ;), funny na?).
No internet, and worse... one day when we needed to call the Hospital (and another day the Electric office) the mobiles would not connect the Toll-free numbers. We missed the landline badly.

A Consumer forum complaint and the officials became tight -lipped. "Our legal team is working on it, I am not authorized to respond anymore". Again nothing for a month in spite of reminders. Then the case was closed based upon an Airtel response - "All is well !" - what a farce if the authorities only listen to the mischief-mongers and not the complainant.

Somebody mentioned a DoT complaint.

And Yessss!! After 10 months, Airtel accepted that they changed the FCV calculation to a "new process" (A2A). Rather stealthily, no notification on the bills or mail - noone noticed - kiske paas time time hai? And those who complained were "educated" (read 'bribed' with reversals). Rather clandestine for a market leader, don't you think?

They say "TRAI guideline gives them the right to change tariff plans at their will after 6M" ! Should I feel elated that they took 3 yrs to change? Attitude !!
When asked whether the TRAI guideline talks of PRIOR notification to customers - lips sealed again ! Cat-and-mouse !! Then came the "Apologies for the inconvenience...blah...blah ". Offer for alternate plan. Sending the official home for reactivation. etc..etc

So now I must migrate to another plan with no free call option to all phone, policies changed .... some offer for discounted STDs.

OK, but only if you are a little wary can these surreptitious acts be brought to light. And only if you spare a little of your time to spread the word (even if its Internet activism like the threats from Airtel incident) will these betrayals stop !! Alone Anna cannot help !!!