Switch Out Of Airtel – The Story of How Airtel Duped Me

It has always been a pain dealing with Airtel Customer Service. I have a prepaid connection and 2 Internet 4G Routers. Until recently, I bore the brunt of bad service and even worse resolution of issues because I didn’t have an option. I have donated a lot of money to Airtel despite their ineptitude. However, my recent experience with Airtel told me that Airtel isn’t incompetent as much as it wants to con people of their money. This is the final straw. I am going to make sure I discourage people from signing up for Airtel and also ensure that people switch out.

I travel abroad at least twice a year. In order to ensure I have connectivity at all times I signed up for the INR 4011/- offer from Airtel. (Check the Image below)

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I paid the amount and got a confirmation only to be sent a message saying my main account didn’t have balance and they needed to charge me a rent so I should recharge some money there. I recharged with INR 500/-. The service didn’t work. It didn’t work for the entire period  of my stay. I recharged for various amount to make it work based Airtel’s messages and it didn’t work. I had already paid Airtel over INR 5000/- by now. I complained on Twitter. No response. I wrote to customer care. No response. Finally, I wrote to the Nodal Officer at Airtel for Mumbai circle. (Always remember to write to Nodal officers in telecom companies. It’s always worked for me.)

The resolution offered to me by the Nodal officer was that they would transfer the INR 5000/- back in to my account. I agreed immediately. However, I realised later that all they did was add INR 5000/- to my Airtel Main Balance account and not refund it to my card account. Here is what the problem is, I recharged for international roaming, a service  which Airtel wasn’t able to provide me. Now they want me to use the INR 5000/- for a service I did not sign up for! 

Moreover, despite writing to the Appellate Authority (supposed to be the highest escalation you can do at a company) the only response I kept getting is that there is no provision to refund money. This is a nice way to extort money from people. Get them to pay for a service you can’t deliver. Then tell them that we can’t pay you your money back so use some other service of ours. This is wrong on all levels. (Funnily, the person responding from both Nodal office and the Appellate Authority office is the same – Mr. Mohit Goswami. This means the Appellate Authority and Escalation Matrix is a joke at Airtel. I’m sure TRAI would be thrilled to know this if they do care. The Mailbox of Airtel Appellate Authority becomes full routinely. Imagine the number of complaints!)

However, here is where this situation becomes even worse. Tired of this, I decided to Port my number. I sent a SMS on 1900 to PORT out of Airtel to Jio. I get a call from Airtel offering me unlimited calling at INR 149/- for one year to make me stay. As I discovered during that day, Calling in India has become practically free. Every telecom network is offering insanely cheap plans to retain customers. For e.g. at INR 499/- Airtel Postpaid customers get Unlimited calling and Unlimited data.  If you’re paying a single rupee more than this to Airtel, my suggestion is to get your plan changed or PORT to Jio or any other provider offering a better plan. 

In this scenario, Airtel is forcing me to use and pay for a service which is FREE across India including their own network or costs 1.5% of the cost they want me to pay for it. They even refuse to deduct the balance in my account and give me data instead which they are distributing at pittance to stop customers from switching to Jio. Also, if I PORT my number I lose the balance in my account anyway.

If this is not cheating and a malpractice what is?

A lot of people have asked me why I’m raising such a hue and cry for a small amount of INR 5000/-. My response is that INR 5000/- is not a small amount in my eyes. As a CEO of a profitable start-up I know that more than anyone else. Also, this needs to stop. If customers keep donating money to big companies who fleece them without raising a voice it will encourage more Sales heads to encourage such practices so that they can reach their Sales target.

I will try to reach as many people as I can through this platform. Next goal is to reach someone at TRAI but before that make sure this piece reaches IIM Calcutta alumnus and CEO of Airtel Gopal Vittal. I have also filed a complaint with Department of Telecom here.

Ankit Doshi

Creator of InsideIIM.com