What does a customer do when companies involved in communication-related services slip up?
Mobile phones and the Internet have become an indispensable part of life today, and the Indian telecommunications industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world.
The number of mobile subscribers has increased greatly because of the proactive initiatives taken by the regulators, and many private cellular and broadband service providers offer services at competitive prices.
However, as with any other service sector, despite the numerous advantages, there are certain issues consumers face from time to time. These could be largely avoided if the service providers acted more conscientiously.
For instance, we recently received a complaint from Advaith, who had an issue with his service provider; three months later, it is yet to be resolved.
Advaith was under a particular plan and had opted for an additional package that offered free, unlimited national and local SMS. A few months ago, the service provider had suggested that he shift to a more beneficial, alternative plan. Advaith changed plans, but only when he received the next bill did he realise that the SMS package had not been carried over, and that he had been charged for all messages. He raised the issue with the service provider, and was told that all extra packages get cancelled when the basic plan is altered.
He was not informed of this. Also, as per current regulations, nothing is offered as ‘unlimited'. As a result, Advaith forever lost out on a very rewarding package. Moreover, his connection was deactivated for non-payment of dues, though TRAI regulations stipulate that the service should not be discontinued when a dispute is still on.
Lack of transparency
Such an issue takes place mainly because of lack of transparency on the part of the service providers.
Similarly, in another case, Ananya's e-mail account was closed by her service provider, without prior information, when she was away from India. She had given her id to financial institutions and others, and was inconvenienced when she could not access her id one fine morning. When she demanded an explanation, the customer care department of her service provider replied that since she had not renewed her account, the account had been closed. However, Ananya had not received any communication in this regard.
When she raised this issue, the service provider informed her that they had tried contacting her over telephone, and since there was no response, they had gone ahead and closed an account.
When Ananya was holding an email account of the service provider, their contacting her over landline instead of emailing her, is beyond one's understanding! Later, upon our intervention, the issue was resolved.
Such issues with service providers can be easily avoided if they acted with more conscience and gave priority to the interests of consumers.
(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries, contact 24914358/24460387 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Keywords: consumer grievance