Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Jul 7: Most mobile users must have experienced frequent call drops in the midst of an all important conversation and must be quite frustrating when it recurs often. Well if you thought that it was just one call for you, for a telecom company like Airtel which has over 200 million subscribers in India and has presence in more than 20 countries, it is raking in millions even if a few calls drop every month from a small percentage of its vast subscriber base. Frequent call drops, hidden costs in some of the recharge packs, special offers made by private telecom operators, bloated bills, network congestions, tariff related issues and activation of charges for certain services without the consent of the customers etc, are some of the problems faced by a growing number of mobile users in India.
With a market share of almost 30 percent Airtel is the biggest private player in India and has consolidated its position as the leading telecom company in South Asia. Needless to say when it comes to deficient service and complaints against the service providers with the TRAI Airtel tops the list. While complaints related to other issues remain the same it is the issue of call drops that has become a major problem for most customers. The problem is quite acute in the choked networks of metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chenai. These call drop problem is quite acute in certain areas in Mangalore city and many customers have complained to the service provider and also have highlighted the issue through the media and in various forums without much success.
For example network is very erratic in certain areas of the city like in Kaikamba to Nanthoor, on the way Circuit house to Bejai Circle, from Nanthoor Politechnic to Yeyyadi Road, Court Road and Light house hill road are some of the areas where customers face call drops. Praveen Tilak, a Marketing Executive and an Airtel customer from Kulshekar points out that it took him nearly six months to know that the problem was with the network and not with his handset. "I always faced network problems in this area and in some other parts of the city because suddenly the network goes zero. It is quite infuriating when that happens in the midst of a serious talk," Tilak points out.
Ramakrkishna Rao who is working for a I T company says his job is such that he has to be constantly in touch over mobile even when he travels in his chauffeur-driven car. "I pass from Nanthoor to Yeyyadi everyday and have faced this problem without realising that I have faced this problem in this area for quite some time now. Only when my colleagues pointed out did I realise that it is due to the deficiency of service from the telecom provider." Though he has complained about it several times he says there isn’t any improvement in the service.
Bhavya Punja, another Airtel customer from Kaikamba who is working for a private firm in the city, had faced severe network problem about 4 months back as both her incoming and outgoing calls could last only for few seconds. She dreads recalling those two weeks because she was fed up running out to the courtyard with her set every time she got a call as she thought she could get better range outside.
"I faced the worst problem for nearly 15 days as all my incoming and outgoing calls could not last 5 to 10 seconds and those who wanted to talk had to call me repeatedly and sometimes I had to call. This was in February and I actually thought the problem was with my set. I gave the set for repair but the service centre suggested complains to the service centre. The service centre suggested I change the SIM as they it might have been damaged. But the problem persisted. That is when I went to the showroom once again and gave a written complaint saying if you don’t act I will take the issue to the consumer court," says Bhavya.
She says that complaint had the desired effect as the company people could locate and set right the problem. Bhavya says that the company realised her problem when they came to her area and were trying to call and talk to her to locate her area but had difficulty to keep the calls running beyond 10 seconds.
The company officials then revealed that there was a major problem in Bikarnakatta Kaikamba area and the company could finally identify the problem and set it right. The technicians knew that there was a problem before Bhavya went to the showroom with a complaint. But they thought they could afford to ignore it until she took them to task. For 15 days Bhavya says she spent on her what she usually spends for two months. "Who will pay me the cost of those dropped calls wherein I was charged 30 paisa (30 paisa per minute pack) even when I talked only for one second or one minute? I never got chance to talk to more than 20 seconds."
The irony is that despite financial loss and inconvenience caused to the customers, it is the user who pays through his nose for the deficiency of service on the part of the service provider. Bhavani also points out the hidden costs in some of the packs offered by Airtel. She says she usually opts for a pack that charges her 30 paise per minute except the initial two minutes which are charged double. "But the real issue is that I am charged 30 paise even if I speak for one second. This is not disclosed to me anywhere."
Misleading information and confusion
The college going students have an altogether different problem pertaining mainly to data card. David Simon, a Hotel Management student in the city says that he had issues with Airtel with regard to the data pack. "They had promised 2 GB internet on 2 G data pack recharge as per their official website. But once I got only 1.25 GB instead of 2 GB which was promised." Many customers might have fallen prey to such machinations but might not have pursued the matter. Caller tunes is another problem faced mostly by those in the rural areas. It is not that they wanted caller tunes. Some message comes and they inadvertently press it resulting in activating it. Jayarama, a youngster who works in his farmland in Harekala says that though he does not want the caller tune and is not aware how he got it. He does not know how to deactivate it. "I don’t want to spend Rs. 30- just for the tune but I am helpless," he avers.
Daijiworld tried to get the version of the company for this lacuna by calling their showroom in Lalbagh and Pandeshwar on the number given in the net. The first person who answered the call at Lalbagh gave another contact and this went on till the fifth caller who said he does not know who I should contact. There are different divisions like those who handle fixed call lines, internet, marketing etc. But then it shows that there is lack of coordination among the various departments. Finally I saw the net and realised that I could call 198. After calling 198 we sent a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org asking their response. But so far the company officials have failed to reply.
When company officials failed to listen to the woes of the customers some of them tried to find solutions for their problems on their own. Airtel customer Gurudath says that one of the youngsters whom he came across in the course of his work told him that the problem crops up when the user opts for auto mode and the network tries to oscillate between 2 and 3 G in certain areas. "I have now opted only for 2G and now there is no problem," Gurudath avers. But the same cannot be said about others customers who still feel that the company is guilty of deficiency in service.
Call drops have become a perennial problem faced by customers in metros like Delhi and Mumbai and that is what prompted many MP’s to raise the issue in the budget session of parliament in April this year. Gauging the enormity of the issue Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even hinted at penalising telecom companies for call drops. The ministry is even mulling compensation to customers by the service providers for call drops. This compensation can be in the form of returning the money charged for dropped calls or in the form of extra talk time for deficient service.
However, it is easier said than done to make companies pay considering the technicalities involved in identifying whether the call drop was due to network or other issues. It has come to light that some service providers have already begun the process of compensating customers for call drops. Will Airtel listen to the woes of the customers and respond positively and put an end to their frustrations?