Airtel : Harassing customers

My wife and me have been happy Vodafone customers for several years now. At home, we have an Airtel Broadband and DigitalTV service so when we needed another cellphone for our home, we decided to buy a prepaid card from Airtel (www.airtel.in). Little did we know the fact that India’s largest cellular operator has the worst service possible.

We bought a prepaid cell phone number from their relationship center in Dwarka, New  Delhi on 27th June 2010.  Copies of my PAN card, AIrtel Landline phone bill as address proof, driving license as my ID proof, the required application form and money were submitted and verified by the agents. As promised, the cellphone activated on 29th June 2010 and was working.  On 13th July, I received the following SMS from Airtel – “As per Govt of India directive, documents received for your Airtel Prepaid Mobile are incomplete and your services will be discontinued. Kindly contact the Airtel Relationship Center or the Dealer from where you purchased your Airtel Mobile immediately”.  Immediately after that, the cellphone service died.

On 14th July 2010, I visited the Airtel Relationship center to sort out the matter. They looked into their computer and in 2 minutes said they had received all the documents and passed in onto Airtel so there’s nothing they could do.  When pressed further to take action, grudgingly they pointed me to a number pasted on the wall and asked me to call the number. The number -9818334865 was of Nodal Officer Ms Neha – who spoke to me for 14 minutes. During that time, she also spoke to the relationship center people twice and at the end said she couldn’t do anything about it. She couldn’t explain why the SMS had asked me to visit the Relationship Center if they couldn’t do anything about it. I wanted the connection cancelled but she confirmed there is no process of getting a refund (that should be illegal – we’ll find out)

Left with no option, I contacted the Airtel support on 14th July by emailing them at airtelpresence@airtel.in – they frequently advertise this email ID on twitter (www.twitter.com/airtel_presence) – with complete details. Within an hour, I received a call from the number 9871999470 , he asked about all the details and said would resolve the problem. An hour later, I received a call from 9717894314 – he wanted to know what my issue was despite all facts being mentioned in the mail. This cheeky guy suggested it was my fault and I should submit all the documents again. I said goto hell. I received at least 3 more calls, each confirming that they would resolve the problem but nothing happened.

On 15th July 2010, I was woken up early in the morning by a call from the number 9871999147. This guy specifically said that he was calling from the Presidents office and wanted to know if the issue had been resolved. When I said no action had been taken, he said the issue would be resolved within 1 hour.  7 hours later, no one has bothered to do anything. I specifically want to know who is this President who works with such useless people.

I’ve written twice to the twitter account @airtel_presence who replied back “Dear Anil, We are on top of ur issue, trust it will get resolved, thx” – that’s it.  No action.

If you think I’m the only one suffering with Airtel, think again. Here are thousands of people complaining about similar issues  :

http://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Airtel-925020924.html

http://www.complaints-india.com/searchcomplaints.html?compId=airtel&submit=Submit

http://www.consumercomplaints.in/bycompany/airtel-prepaid-a11898.html

Here’s what I find disgusting:

  1. Employees have no sense of ownership or responsibility
  2. The management never gets involved – there’s no way of reaching them for a customer
  3. The assumption at Airtel’s end is even if thousand’s of customers complain, it doesn’t matter, we’re still getting millions.

For a large company facing the public and providing services, there should be strict rules on quality of services. Airtel’s wikipedia page mentions 135 Million customers as of May 2010, that’s larger than the population of most countries. It’s sad they can’t deal with their customers in India properly. Companies who cannot provide good services at home should definitely not be allowed to grow outside, I already pity the people of Africa where Airtel is headed next.

I know what will happen now, Airtel will quickly resolve my issue by either fixing it or giving a refund, however, this blog post will remain on my site till the senior most Director of the company takes action against the employees who aren’t doing their jobs and publicly informs what action has been taken.

I request all to publicize this post and write all comments only on this website, so everyone can read your thoughts of what should be done against such companies harassing customers.

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