The 2 G scam in India has been attracting global attention and indicates how some companies might have benefited by corruption in the licensing system . The overall value of the scam benefit was estimated at Rs 176000 crores. This benefit is deemed to have been enjoyed by the mobile companies and it is surmised that around 30% of this could have been paid out as bribes to various agencies .

One may wonder how a commercial organization that pays out such huge sums as bribes can recover these expenses. One possibility is that they must be ripping the customers with false billing or planning to do the same in due course when they start their activities.

Recently a case has come to the notice of public that a few executives of MTS were involved in using genuine customer applications for issuing data cards to others by switching photographs. The executives have been arrested and are being prosecuted for offences under different sections. (Read the full story here).

In the meantime we need to also observe how honest are the companies who were not involved in the 2G licensing scam and would like to place in the public domain my own experience of Airtel who according to my considered opinion are resorting to a systematic false billing for their customers.

I have heard of problems in over charging in prepaid accounts where the customers cannot verify the call details and duplication of calls made to frequent destination numbers so that the customer cannot identify the false calls,  just to boost up sales .

However it appears that the fraudulent practices in the 3G billing is developing in to scam proportions and needs the attention of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) immediately.

From my own experience, I have raised a complaint  ( complaint  resting with the Nodal Officer Bangalore with a mail acknowledged on 22nd February 2012)  with Airtel in recent days on the following counts:

1. On a 3 G mobile account there were continuous over billing on data usage for three consecutive days. I raised an alarm and then used MNP to shift out of Airtel. Very reluctantly and after several complaints to the nodal officer the MNP port out request was accepted.

2. I had a 3 G data card bought recently and found that it was not capable of providing 3 G speeds. I raised a complaint, asked for closure of account since number portability is not available on data cards and kept away the data card. I also raised a request for cancellation of the purchase and return of the money paid for the data card. However in the next month, Airtel billed lots of data usage and sent a bill indicating that there was false data accounting here.

3. The fraudulent approach of Airtel was also evident in the fact that when complaint tickets were raised, there was a prompt reply that it would be attended within the next 24 hours. After that there would be a missed call from a non returnable number  which would be disconnected after a few rings. This would be followed by an e-mail that the Company has attended the complaint and they are happy to know that it had been resolved.

I  have been confronted with this fraudulent attitude several times and every time lodged new complaints to continue the process. In similar false billing case in Airtel DTH I have pursued the complaint on several occassions and finally able to get rid of the false billing. Under DTH, Airtel has a system where without the customer’s authorization, they keep activating past top ups and send bills. They threaten to close the main account if Top Ups are not renewed. I feel all this is part of their plan to boost up billing.

In order to confront them on the 3 G data card billing, I have demanded that Airtel submit me an expert report of data speeds available under 3G data cards in different parts of Bangalore and prove that their warranties on the 3 G data speed (Upto 7.2 MB speed) is true. I have also demanded that they submit me details of my data usage which includes the URLs visited and IP addresses allocated. I am awaiting the response.

I have copied my complaints to TRAI also.

Unless TRAI takes some strict action against the mobile operators regarding false billing, this will be a scam bigger than the 2G or the Nigerian Scam.

The incident can be treated as a suspected Salami attack by a mobile service provider  on its clients and CBI can also come in suo moto to investigate.

 In the meantime, I am bringing this to public notice so that other customers of Airtel particularly in Bangalore may inform me if they have similar problems. We maybe able to take up a case with the Consumer Forum to ensure that this organized ripping of customers is put an end to. I also invite Consumer activists in Bangalore to get in touch  with me so that we can take up a public interest litigation and demand a TRAI enquiry into the billing practices of Airtel. Probably in the PIL we need to request the Court to order a CBI enquiry also.

Naavi of naavi.org

 

 

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