Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How Airtel Tricked me into Paying More

I have been using a pre-paid Airtel mobile connection for several years now and I have not had any problems. In 2010 April beginning, I received a phone call while I was in my office offering a new post-paid scheme. Though I was somewhat busy with some work, I listened to the person (unfortunately, as it turned out) and found that the plan was attractive. So I accepted her offer to send an executive immediately. She had asked me right at the beginning how much I spend on mobile phone each month and I told her that I spend around 200 to 250 rupees a month. The offer she made was for a post-paid connection that would cost me Rs. 225 per month which had certain free calls and the rates for excess calls were rather low. I asked her about roaming and she gave me a vague answer that, I thought, meant that roaming was nothing special. I thought this scheme sounds good and that is why I decided to accept it. I was also told that I could go back to my pre-paid plan whenever I wanted.

In a couple of weeks, I had to go to Delhi and then abroad. And I found that my phone was off air once I left India. Apparently, I am supposed to have known that this would happen with pre-paid connections. I returned home only to see a bill that indicated an amount that I have never paid in my life for telephone. I soon shot off a letter to customer care and I got a prompt automated response that said thank you and that I would be getting a proper response within 24 hours. Instead of a response to my email, what I got was a phone call asking for payment. I explained the problem and expressed my desire to go back to my pre-paid plan. Such conversation was repeated three times, until I got a call from Chennai. Meanwhile I kept writing emails also.

Finally, I got to speak to an official in Chennai who told me that I could pay my bills at either of three offices in the town and pay Rs. 100 to get back my pre-paid connection. By being enticed into a connection that results in a far higher monthly bill, I lost more than a thousand bucks. And the only response the company official could give for this was "sorry". On top of it all, now I am told to keep from making calls for one day in order to move back to my old pre-paid connection.

Airtel customers, beware of such calls. Just tell them that you are not interested in listening to their offers. Otherwise, closely examine the offer and get them to explain every small aspect of the scheme before you decide to accept the offer. The company is probably putting pressure on their officers to get people to migrate from pre-paid to post-paid, and we customers have to pay for it. And Airtel may not be the only service provider that does this kind of thing.

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