I had planned to write a post like this a few months back but at that time I thought, “Well, what the heck,” and had abandoned the idea. I’ll narrate here how Airtel — the company that provides mobile phone connections in India (and an assortment of other connectivity-related service) fleeces money out of unsuspecting consumers. The latest incident first.
For a few months I didn’t have a mobile handset so my prepaid number remained inactive during this time and consequently it was deactivated, which means neither incoming nor outgoing calls were allowed. The day before yesterday when I purchased a new handset I decided to recharge my prepaid connection. Since I couldn’t go to the shop I had sent the driver of my cab to get my phone recharged and using his best judgment he got the phone charged with a plan that gave me the maximum talk time for the amount paid.
Even after charging the phone I couldn’t use it; it remained deactivated. I was out the whole day so I couldn’t figure out why the phone wasn’t working. When I came back in the evening I called up Airtel service and the service executive there told me that even if my phone had been charged the tariff plan under which it had been charged didn’t activate the phone and in order to get it activated I would have to recharge my phone under another tariff plan. I asked him what would happen to the amount that I had already paid and he informed me that the amount would be automatically added to the new amount. I called them again to confirm this because somewhere I had an inkling that the entire amount would be reset, and even the second executive told me that the amount would be added: I just needed to recharge under another, lower tariff plan to keep my phone working for another month.
So today again when Alka got the phone recharged we thought that finally I would be able to use my new handset. When she came home and I tried to make a call I was again met with silence. Upon checking how much call time I had, to my great shock I just had one rupee left whereas I should have had around Rs. 296. I called their customer service to find out what happened to the amount I had paid yesterday? The wise executive on the other side informed me that I was given wrong information because when you recharge your phone while your phone is deactivated, and when you recharge it again to activate it, your previous amount is not carried forward that means it is reset to zero. There was no point in arguing with him because he was just giving me the information he had and he had no role in formulating the recharge policies of the company.
So the question is why was my phone recharged and I was allocated talk time when I couldn’t make a call? Isn’t it cunning on their part, especially when they are smart enough to make such a screwed up rule that resets the amount to zero when you recharge your phone while it is deactivated the moment you get it recharged in order to activate it? The executive that told me that I was given the wrong information wasn’t even apologetic, he just matter-of-factly told me that I was given the wrong information and was screwed in the process (he didn’t say the last part but his tone conveyed it). Before charging the phone why doesn’t an error message flash on the retailer’s computer screen that this prepaid subscriber’s number is deactivated and he or she should be given an option to recharge the phone under a different tariff plan that first activates the number and then allocates the talk time accordingly? What is so complicated in that?
I think this is a blatant rip-off and if many consumers are going through the same troubles than some consumer forum must take up the issue and sue this company. For instance if I wasted Rs. 333 for a recharge that was never destined to work then there must be thousands of people doing the same thing because they either don’t have the right information or the software that accepts money for recharges that are never going to work isn’t properly written. I am sure this has been done intentionally. This is pure stealing.
I don’t want to continue with my Airtel connection but Alka just reminded me that even the previous company (Hutch, now Vodafone I guess) from where I got my phone number wasn’t that great and there was a reason why I had shifted to the Airtel connection.
And now the second, the previous incident.
I use Airtel’s broadband Internet connection to do my work. I had the same broadband connection plan at the previous place where I lived — Sarita Vihar, in New Delhi. When we shifted to NOIDA I called the Airtel customer care to transfer my connection to the new place since this area too is covered by them. They instructed me to send a formal e-mail with my customer ID and all in order to get the connection transferred, which I immediately did (I was in a hurry because I needed the connection at the new place to carry on my professional commitments).
The wise guys promptly “transferred” my connection. The problem was, transfer means that my connection at Sarita Vihar should have been discontinued — that didn’t happen. They kept sending the old bill at the old house and whenever we visited the old house I used to call them up and tell them that since my connection had been transferred the old connection should be discontinued. Every time I was told that I was getting the bill due to some technical glitch and I shouldn’t bother. They also kept telling me that they would make sure that the bill wasn’t sent again and again.
Then one day after more than a year I got a call from them that I had an outstanding bill amount of around Rs. 5,000 and I needed to pay it immediately. They said that I never got the old connection disconnected. I asked them to check their old e-mails and see that I had requested them to discontinue my old connection and they told me, again, matter-of-factly, that they don’t store e-mails that are more than six months old. I was obviously quite pissed off and flatly refused to pay the amount. The guy on the other side said that legal action would be taken against me and even my present connection would be discontinued. I dared them to do the same and I also told them to send the legal notice and I would take the appropriate action but I would never pay them for the connection that according to me should have been disconnected a long time ago. Since a few weeks after this heated discussion my old handset broke and I stopped using the phone number they had in the database (the same number that I am trying to get activated now) they didn’t or couldn’t bother me again.
These are the tactics they use to exhort money from unsuspecting consumers. A few years ago I had read in the newspaper that the mobile phone companies (not the companies that give handsets but the ones that provide the connectivity) quietly add one or two rupees to the bills they send to their subscribers and consequently earn millions of rupees more in the process.
I cannot advise you to stay away from these companies because there is no other choice but I think the issue should be raised by as many people as possible so that more people are aware of these companies’ stealing techniques. They seem like a bunch of corporate crooks.
[tags]airtel sucks, airtel, mobile connection[/tags]