Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Time I Was A Social Network Consumer Activist

I had a prepaid datacard from MTS for quite a few months until I began receiving calls about converting to a postpaid connection as I was a 'special' customer. I used one of their lower plans and I'm not sure how exactly I had become a special customer. It wasn't until I had switched to the post-paid connection for a few months that I realised that calling you a special customer is just a polite way of calling you gullible.

I was very dissatisfied with this connection. Most people I know who used MTS had similarly poor experiences and in one case an even worse experience. It took them a long to activate the connection and they charged me for that period despite the fact that I couldn't use the connection. The billing amounts generally seemed off, the customer service was horrendous, and the speeds were a fraction of the upto 3.1 mbps they promise.The decision to move to broadband didn't require much thinking. And that's when this whole episode began.

When I had converted the prepaid connection to a postpaid connection I was assured that I could go back to prepaid if I wished. But when I tried to go back to prepaid instead of just cancelling the connection altogether I was told that they can't do that. It can't be a very hard thing to do. This was sometime in September.

Getting it cancelled then required me to go past a very loyal employee who needed a lot of convincing for her to believe that their customer care team cannot do anything about the fact that the datacard offer speeds of only 3.1 mbps. I also had to settle my outstanding dues which were, as usual, much higher than what I expected. The temptation of being so near the end made me soft and mellow and I handed the amount over without a single protest. I was given a receipt for the settlement of dues and told that someone would get in touch with me regarding the security deposit I had paid at the beginning in the next 48 hours.

I did not receive a call for over a month. After multiple calls and emails to MTS it emerged that they finally cancelled my connection from their side in November, two months after I had requested for the cancellation and stopped using it too. They stated that they could only clear the refund after I cleared my dues (because the connection was active until November) which amounted to more or less the same amount as the refund they owed me.

A lot of emails and calls later they finally agreed to repay the full amount and waive the extra amount I had been charged. A month after this great leap forward in our relationship I was still refund-less and a conversation with another MTS employee had me back at square one again about how I had dues till November which I had to pay. We had the same conversation and reached the same momentous agreement that MTS owed me the full amount with no extra dues.

Another couple of weeks later I was still waiting for the refund to come in. This time I sent them an e-mail and also posted about this on their Facebook page. Around the same time their Nodal Desk shut down and all issues were to be handled by their Appellate Desk directly. I received immediate responses from both sources. One of them asked me for contact details and the other set a date of resolution.The Appellate Desk sits higher than the Nodal Desk and isn't any quicker in resolving issues but they will keep sending you emails regarding the resolution date being changed to something further away. The Nodal Desk which doesn't even do that and the guys moderating the Facebook page only ask for your contact details.

After multiple emails from the Appellate Desk which pushed the resolution date by another 15-20 days in increments of 1 or 2 days each time I finally got a call from them. This time they asked me to provide the bill for the payment of the security deposit that I had made almost a year ago. It had been four months since I had requested the cancellation and it just seemed a cheap way of pushing an irate customer off but unfortunately for MTS I had the bill. I was supposed to receive a call the next day to give them the details but I received no call for another few days.

That's when I started this counter on Facebook -

The MTS Facebook moderators replied to the other dissatisfied customer and did not even acknowledge my complaints. A very good observation was made by a friend in one of the later comments  -

A few of my friends, amused by this whole affair, started sharing this across their friend circles. Some even got a "MTS will pay Re. 1 for every share" cause going against my name. I had never been this famous before. And then they joined me on on the MTS Facebook page -

And MTS STILL did not take this matter seriously. I received a call on the morning of the 24th of Jan while I was in a meeting and I asked them to call me back in an hours. I received no call for another few hours. That is when I took up an old school friend's suggestion and mailed their Corporate Communications - Director and their Chief Customer Service Delivery Officer.That seemed to do the trick and the response was almost immediate -

But not quite. Another employee called me that evening to discuss the details of how and where the refund would take place. I gave her the details and asked her to call me the next morning to confirm. I received no call and then at around 4 pm I sent them another email pointing out to them that the citizen's charter on their website carried the following table. Check out the last row -

I was supposed to get the refund before 5 pm on the 25th and someone finally called me at 5:50 asking me if I was available to collect the refund. I wasn't and this person then offered to set up an online transaction from his personal bank account. I agreed but at the same time I was surprised that a well known company like MTS allows this. I tried to call the lady I talked to the previous day and she was conveniently on leave. However, if it weren't for this I would have taken up the same school friend's suggestion and contacted TRAI.

I still haven't received a formal apology from MTS nor an explanation as to why it took so long. I have instructed them to consider this matter not resolved until that happens but I'm not very hopeful.

If you've ever been in such a situation before I'd like to hear how you dealt with it. I'm told customer service in India is usually terrible and I have a couple of other refunds that I'm still waiting for and I'm sure some more tips would be helpful.


  1. good one Das,
    This is one website run by government, and my hope when registering a grievance was as big as half the size of a mustard seed. But I donno how it worked, a half a dozen calls came from the Service provider side to resolve the matter and it was settled. In fact I looked for an online Lawyer to register case prior to registering a grievance in the aforementioned portal against the Service Provider. So whomsoever having a problem in balance deductions by the service provider, dont get frustrated and get into verbal wars with the CCExecutives', just go thru the portal and lodge a compliant.

    1. Thanks man, I'll keep this in mind next time I'm up against something like this again.

  2. I have similar customer care issues with Airtel -
    when the validity of my Internet pack is about to get over on my phone, I recharge it the previous night. The next day, whatever usage I make should be getting deducted from my Internet balance, right?
    Airtel happily takes away all the money from my talk time balance. Essentially crippling me because I can't even call customer care without a minimum balance of 50 paise.
    I have to take a friend's phone and call them and explain this to them. Then they keep apologising and transfer my call to their supervisors. Finally they claim that the amount will be refunded in 24 hours.
    Fair enough, it was refunded. I was a happy customer.
    The next month, the same thing happens again. Again, I had to go through this whole ritual of being crippled and made to wait 24 hours to get my refund. This time, I made them assure me that it won't happen again.
    And then it happened again. I was furious. What is the point of this whole exercise if they aren't gonna learn from their mistakes? I threatened that I'm gonna change my service provider. This really scared them (or that's what I sadly believed). Again it they apologised and promised to fix the issue permanently. I was skeptical and not gonna fall for this trap again.
    The next month, in anticipation of this happening, I made sure I had almost no talk time balance left at the time of their planned robbery. Nonetheless, they stole the 24 rupees shamelessly. That was the last straw. I have made a resolution to change my service provider when this happens again (and I have faith that it will happen).