Thursday, December 13, 2012

My experience with Airtel fraudbytes

November was spent mostly outside Bangalore, primarily in Mumbai. I had agreed to be part of the team for our organization’s CMMi Services Level 5 appraisal (it is commonly and wrongly referred to as Level 5 certification, there is no such ‘certificate’ given by CMMi.  It was a good experience, I will detail that in another post, but the primary purpose of this post is to highlight my not-so-pleasant experience with Airtel’s services.

I subscribe to a 3G data pack costing 250 rupees a month, which gives me a data allowance of 1 GB. Normally, I consume 300-400 MB during the month, but given that I was going to be in Mumbai for most of the bill cycle, I expected to cross that limit easily. Airtel has a service called Smartbytes, which allows you to buy additional data usage beyond your monthly limit. Luckily for me, the excellent data usage monitor that is part of Android since 4.0 allows me to keep a close watch on my usage on a real time basis, so my plan was to monitor the usage and once I reach the limit, subscribe to a Smartbytes pack costing 300 rupees that would give me an extra 1 GB of data.

I was naïve to think that it would all work perfectly. Here is what actually happened

-  I reached the limit around the 2nd of December. So, I went over to their page and attempted to subscribe but got an error that my unbilled had exceeded my Credit limit. That was strange, as my bill usually is around 1100-1200 rupees. So, I logged onto their portal and checked the unbilled amount, which was 3500 rupees. Apparently, their unbilled figure calculates data charges at the usual rate of 3 ps/10KB, which works out to 3000 Rs/GB.

- As I wanted to get the Smartbytes activated, I logged into the self service portal and paid 1500 rupees into my account, thinking it would solve the issue. Unfortunately, it did not and I was not able to activate the package.

- Over the next 2 days, I called Airtel thrice and spoke to their customer service rep (and paid for the privilege). Each time, they assured me that it would get activated but it did not.

- I also contacted them on twitter through their customer care as well as sent them an email. Other than meaningless assurances, there was no action taken

- Finally, on 6th, I gave up and told them not to bother, as my billing cycle was ending on that day. I’d consumed around 1.2 GB of data for which I would have to pay an extra 600+ rupees instead of the 300 that I would have paid.

While I have no way of knowing for sure, I feel that I have been made a victim of a deliberate strategy to overcharge. While their credit limits may be in force, it would have been very easy for their CC to override and enable the package, but they chose not to do it. After I got my bill, I tweeted about this and had 2-3 meaningless conversations with some person without any action. If they really cared about a customer who gives them 3000 rupees every month, they would’ve said “Sir, we’re very sorry that you could not activate Smartbytes, to compensate, we will retrospectively apply the package from the date you requested and give you a credit for the difference”. I don’t really expect it from them, though.


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