BSNL pulled up for service `transgressions'

CHENNAI DEC. 7. A consumer forum here has lambasted the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited-Chennai Telephones for service transgressions, including excess billing, failure to check premium lines such as `Metro Masala' and `Love 2 Talk' and for engaging a private recovery agency to realise disputed bill amount from a customer.

Finding merit in a complaint by S. Gopalakrishnan, the Chennai (North) Consumer Disputes Redress Forum directed the BSNL to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000 to the complainant, besides refunding his earlier bill amount of Rs. 10,111 along with a case cost of Rs. 1,000.

Between June and July 2000, Mr. Gopalakrishnnan received a bill of Rs. 10,111. When he disputed the claim, he was advised to pay the sum and was told that it would be adjusted later on verification. Later, he came to know that the premium rate service facility had been made available to him without request and no intimation had been sent to subscribers. The subsequent bill for August-September 2000 was for Rs. 41,999. Despite several complaints and reminders, he did not get proper reply from the authorities, and his line was disconnected for non-payment of dues.

Later, the Abraham Industrial Services claiming that it had been authorised by the BSNL threatened that its personnel could come either to the complainant's office or residence to collect the dues.

Pointing out that the BSNL had not disputed the complainant's version, the involvement of the private party, a bench, comprising the forum president, K. Ramaswamy, and the members, V.M. Thandapani and Nagammai Karuppiah, said, ``instead of taking lawful action under procedures established by the law, the department had gone to the level of a petty finance company by resorting to unlawful means.''

The bench also cited a recent judgment by Justice V. Kanagaraj of the Madras High Court, directing the BSNL to probe into the affairs of the premium rate services. The order mandated the BSNL to take action against those who misused the services, which were originally meant to give specific information on weather, astrology and religious matters.

The complainant did not incur an ``abnormal bill'' on any occasion other than the one under dispute, the bench said and added that the department failed to come out with evidence to prove extensive use of the premium services by the complainant.

It then asked the department to restore the connection and pay compensation along with the earlier bill amount and the case cost within a month.

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