Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vodafone and Airtel: final frontier

Imagine this: you have a complaint and approach a judge. A flunky tells you there's no way to meet the judge, and there’s nothing that can be done about your complaint. You approach a higher bench. The same flunky appears, states once more you can’t see any judge, and refuses to answer questions related to your complaint. Sounds a bit Kafkaesque, right?

Now let’s say the flunky is working for precisely the company that you want to complain against. The system is not merely broken, but perverse.

Well, that’s exactly how Vodafone’s customer care operates. The story so far: Vodafone wrongly took 1000 rupees from me (background here). I discovered its customer care line does not allow individuals to make complaints or to talk directly to a human being.

After failing with the first rank of customer care (details here), I wrote to the Nodal office. I received a pro forma response from Parmesh Giri ‘on behalf of the Nodal officer’:

We wish to reiterate that since Rs.1000 is not a talk time recharge offer but an integrated voice and data offer which has been activated on 27/11/11 hence we are unable to credit the amount of Rs.907 in your account.

Mr. Shahane, we further confirm that the details about offers/talk time are being updated on the Vodafone website however we regret to inform that we are unable to display the details on other bank websites.

Mr. Shahane, we request you to kindly refer the below mentioned link of the website for details recharge voucher for your reference:

Happy to help,

I pointed out the website link he had provided said nothing about ATM recharges, only about online recharges. Also, Vodafone didn’t need to display any details on bank websites, it could just send a mass email to customers saying the 1000 rupee recharge would now come bundled with a 3G data plan. I got no response.

So I wrote to the Appellate authority. The same Parmesh Giri responded with exactly the same message on behalf of the ‘Appellate authority’. Vodafone are so brazen, they don’t even pretend to separate their ‘nodal’ and ‘appellate’ departments.

So I’ve reached the end of the line with Vodafone. I thought of going to the consumer court, but the requirements to lodge a complaint are formidable. Unless one is cheated out of many thousands of rupees, it makes no sense. So Vodafone can keep tricking consumers with impunity.

Meanwhile, Airtel has proven equally bad in its own right. Not only have a couple of friends reported similar episodes of being cheated, a couple of weeks ago all Airtel lines went down in Bombay, and the company failed to put even a basic ticker on its website mentioning the problem and apologising for the inconvenience. I’m going to try Tata DoCoMo; maybe the Parsi – Japanese combination has resulted in minimum ethical standards being maintained.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of "Confuscious says if you pay up front you get it in the behind"

Unknown said...

Can't say I've tried it myself, but you might want to give a try.

Girish Shahane said...

Ashish, it seems like a great idea where large amounts are concerned; but it doesn't make much sense in my case, because their minimum charge is 30% of the money I lost.

Harvey Palmer said...

Do tell us how the Tata Docomo experience turns out.

kalind said...

With Tata Docomo it will be like being thrown from the frying pan to the fire. Try BSNL instead. With low expectations in the first place, you won't get frustrated.:-)

Anonymous said...

well said Kalind. I would rather go for an MTNL Trump if I am staying in Mumbai. I used them for almost 3 years and I never got a chance to call up their customer care for anything except for enquiry of vouchers. to which as well i get a detailed satisfactory response. I would be soon migrating to MTNL again but just need to check if my office has enough good network for MTNL. In Hiranandan Powai, its hell with Cellular Networks. Imagine you getting full network in centre of floors and zero network on the windows!!!

//Sub/Corpus said...

This is also the situation in Maldives ...
Which ever Telecom I choose, I can never keep up with ghost charges on my bill ...
Best part, even the Telecoms cant seem to explain it to me ... :(

Punditayeen said...

Your post took me to one of my near-to-cardiac-arrest moments of life when Vodafone decided to ruin lovely 3 months of life. I received a freaking internet usage of 39,045!! Yes, Kindly beware of their PRO-RATA usage of 3G Datacard. Thanks to Dad's links with Collection Agency head, I got saved. But It was one of the terrible terrible episodes. And they are bloody NOT HAPPY TO HELP!!

PrattzzHackzz said...

Vodafone messes around with everyone. I activated 3gb@198 2g gprs plan. My last unbilled amount was Rs17000(as vodafone bills gprs at standard voda live charges and then gives a discount). Now, my billed amount is showing 800 bucks. Neither i'm able to check my bill details, nor call up 198(they have me barred, and i havent made a single call to 198 in 2012). Every call lands to the prepaid department, and they're just lame ducks.

Last year, i had activated the same, and got a whopping 1400 bucks, when i was promised i'd be charged 198. The nodal office gave me a discount of 400 something when the tax resulting due to misbilling was 200bucks, and that too after 25 days. Plus they charged 150 as late fees.
I had to write to Martin Pieters(yup, Vodafone Essar CEO, poor guy must have felt bad consumers making him a CCE :P ) and only after that the matter was settled.

Airtel, Reliance ADA and Idea cellular are also the same when it comes to misbilling and bad customer service(i've posted my experiences with them at my blog). More or less, all private telecos in India are kinda robbers. No wonder TRAI has to slog so much. There should be a seperate telecom/ITeS court. Its only MTNL and BSNL who; can be trusted. Thats a whole different thing the 'sarkaari' networks have a bad QoC.