- Out of the blue, I get an SMS saying that my Airtel bill has exceeded my usage limit of Rs.6000/- and to pay immediately or get disconnected.
- Last I knew, my usage limit was something like one or two thousand, which I had never reached, let alone requested to raise.
- My usual phone bill is Rs.300/-. On a heavy usage month, Rs.350/- I simply don’t make calls. I dislike speaking on the phone. When I get calls, I’m in a hurry to end them unless important. Absolutely nothing had happened to change that. Not even a change in the frequency of accusations that I don’t call from family.
- I have a broadband connection at my fingertips and am at home All. The. Time. I don’t need some fiddly little mobile trickle of a connection. The rare occasions I step out, I’ve got a year and half old son with me – “surfing” is not an option.
- I called up the customer care immediately. And yes, these calls are now paid calls. They confirmed that my usage was high, but that they could do nothing about it, and to call after my bill was generated.
- I asked if that would mean that my phone would get disconnected. They confirmed it. Yes, unless I paid the amount – Not A Chance In Hell.
- I informed them clearly that my phone was not in use and that something was wrong again. They told me to contact after the bill was generated again.
- In the meanwhile, my phone usage limit was raised without me requesting it. I called, they told me to call after the bill was generated.
- The bill got generated. By then, the amount was Rs.8,500/- something. The phone was not disconnected, the bill kept increasing. Absolutely nothing had changed in my usage other than the calls to customer service.
- Called up customer service again. They confirmed that my bill was indeed that horrendous number, and that I would have to pay unless I wanted my phone disconnected. I lost it totally and told them they were out of their mind if they were imagining that I would pay whatever amount suited their whims and asked to speak to someone senior and with more sense. Got said person, unfortunately I forget his name.
- He heard me out, checked my previous bills – all of them without exception around Rs.300/- to Rs.350/- and agreed that something was wrong, and that it was unreasonable for me to pay the bill amount. He said he would create a complaint and refer it to a technical guy and that person would get back to me with a solution.
- In the meanwhile, we identified that the amount was because of GPRS. Now, I have no clue what in the world this is, except that I had got an unsolicited call from Airtel asking me if I wanted to use it. I refused. They said that it was a zero rental, and I wouldn’t be billed anything if I didn’t use it. What the hell, I said okay to end the stupid call. That was it. I still don’t know how to use gprs or what in the world it is, except two things. One – the woman said it was the best thing since sliced bread and Two – it is more trouble than its worth, not to mention a bloody thief.
- He agreed that it did sound strange (Probably guessed from my great argument that I didn’t have a freaking clue what I was talking about, let alone use it) and repeated that he would ask a technical person to look into it and it shouldn’t be a problem reversing the charge.
- Time passed, no call. With the due date for my bill approaching, I called them again to ask what had happened. Some girl answered the call and confirmed that I would have to pay the full amount of the bill!
- I asked her what happened of the technical guy who was supposed to call me, and she said that he called, but I didn’t answer the phone. I told her to tell him to call again, and she agreed.
- No call.
- I didn’t pay bill.
- Started getting those “Pay up now” variety SMSs. Then calls. I told the girl who called me the situation and told her that I was waiting for it to be resolved before I paid. She said that my complaint had been closed!!! However, she was quite helpful, if ineffective, and she told me to call up 198 and complain again and to tell all future payment recovery calls that there was a dispute and that a complaint was ongoing, because the calls are scheduled automatically, and they would continue till I paid up. This jargon did help, because saying it like she told me resulted in the calls immediately and politely being terminated rather than a daily harassment. Someone give her a raise.
- Coming back to my story, called up 198 to register a complaint again. The person discussed my bill at length, explaining that I had used my phone for that much time. Apparently he knows my actions better than I do. I told him emphatically that it was not so, and the amount kept rising after I alerted that something was wrong with my account as well.
- He agreed with the sequence of what I said, also that my bill generated after that was for Rs.358/-, but was adamant that I would have to pay the full amount of the problem bill. Why? Because I used that much gprs. How did I use it? He gave me some incomprehensible information on how much data was exchanged and that the highest usage was on the 24th Feb. Nothing in particular had happened on 24th Feb.
- I tried reasoning with this man. No go. Pay up. Pay up. Pay up.
- Finally, I lost it totally, and told him that if this was his bottom line, then here was mine. “FORGET IT”. Not paying. Telling you upfront. Do what you want. Not paying a rupee. I barely use the phone enough to miss it. I’ll survive. You do your worst.
- That kind of got him slower. He said that he would book a complaint. I was speechless. This guy had not intended to book a complaint at all till now?
- He asked me for an alternate number. I refused to give it to him. I told him that this Airtel number was my number and if they wanted to speak with me for payments, they had better call this one number only. If they disconnect, they can always connect, call and disconnect again. They are the kings, right?
Founder at Aam Janata
Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.
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