Last year, Pune-based Latika Sanyal was facing problems with her Internet connection she had taken from a leading mobile service provider company. Following the usual procedure, she called the customer care number and registered her complaint, and was assured that the issue would be resolved within 24 hours. However, the problem, slow speed of the Internet, persisted. For next two weeks, she made several calls on the customer care number and was given “mugged-up answers,” as she puts it. Finally, she wrote a mail to the appellate authority of the mobile service provider. Though she received a mail assuring that “her issue will be resolved,” the Internet speed remained the same. After losing all hopes and waiting for a month, she decided to write a mail to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). “I’m not sure whether it was the intervention of TRAI or something else, my issue was resolved within a week,” recalls Sanyal. More and more mobile service users are not hesitating in approaching TRAI with their individual complaints regarding mobile service providers. As per the reply received to a query filed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act, between 2012 and 2014, TRAI received nearly 32,400 complaints. Among them, the maximum number of complaints were registered against Bharti Airtel Telecommunications in the year 2012-13 and 2013-14.
While Airtel leads the pack with 7,916 complaints, others are not too far behind. Vodafone has 6,407 complaints against it, Reliance Communications 4,789, Tata Teleservices Ltd. 4,030, Idea Cellular 3,202 and BSNL 1990. Other service providers that figure in the complaint list of TRAI include MTN, Loop, HFCL, Uninor, MTS and Aircel.
According to the RTI reply, there are more than 20 kinds of complaints, some of which include wrong charging of calls, tariff-related problems, faulty repair, poor speed of broadband, poor mobile signal, denial of bill plan, fraud calls, bills not received and complaints relating to recovery agents. Among these, the maximum number of complaints registered against all mobile service providers are about excess/inaccurate billing, number portability, disruption of service and value-added service without explicit charges.
In 2013-14, the maximum number of complaints registered against all these companies related to number portability. While Vodafone had the highest number of complaints relating to number portability during 2012-14, Airtel faced the highest number of complaints relating to “disruption of service” and “tariff-related” issues.
A TRAI official said that under the TRAI Act, 1997, it is a regulatory body, which does not handle individual complaints. “Some consumers have a wrong impression that TRAI can directly deal with their complaints. It’s not their fault. If a customer is not satisfied with the mobile service provider’s service and the way they handle his/her complaint, he/she will approach the higher authority. Hence, in the interest of the customers, complaints received in TRAI are forwarded to concerned service providers for appropriate action,” he said.
In August 2012, TRAI had launched a web portal called Telecom Consumer Complaints Monitoring System under the Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulation, 2012. The portal documents complaints received by TRAI and data can be accessed only by TRAI and the mobile service providers. “For every complaint received by TRAI, an Action Taken report needs to be submitted by the mobile service provider concerned,” said the official, adding that if requested by the consumer, TRAI also shares a copy of the “Action Taken” with the customer. The RTI reply also states that though the instances of “call drop” have started surfacing only in the current year, TRAI has received such complaints in the past too, but not in big numbers. Altogether, between 2012-2014, total number of complaints received for “call drop” against all the service providers are not very high – Airtel (15), Idea (31), Reliance (8), TTSL (5) and Vodafone (8).
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