Sick of being regularly shortchanged by your telecom service provider? Well, get used to it as you can go nowhere to seek remedial action. A study done by a New Delhi based consumer-help firm Akosha has revealed.
The problem stems from a Supreme Court ruling on September 1, 2009 which said that when there is a special remedy provided under the Indian Telegraph Act regarding disputes with telephone companies, the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is barred. Thus the apex court ruled out Consumer forums exercising any jurisdiction over such complaints.
What is unusual is that the courts generally consider the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act to be an additional remedy. The Supreme Court also in a few cases has considered the remedy under CPA to be an additional one but in this instance, the apex court thought otherwise.
Initially, District Consumer Forums (DCFs) were not aware of the apex court's ruling and were entertaining consumer complaints. After the awareness has spread this route is increasingly being closed to consumers. As a consequence, consumers have no option but to go to the very perpetrators of deficient service, the telecom service providers, to get their complaints redressed.
In a bid to check out the ground situation, Akosha carried out a survey of 65 District Consumer Forums and the results you will read are quite shocking.
The survey revealed that over 33% of the District Consumer Forums across India are not accepting consumer complaints against telecom companies. Complaints regarding prepaid and post-paid connections, value added services, Broadband services, DTH services, data cards were rejected by one-third of the consumer forums surveyed. Of the 36 representative forums, 12 including Kolkata (Alipore), New Delhi (Central) and Chennai (North) rejected all kinds of complaints against telecom companies.
-- There are several contradictions within states as well. For example if we consider Delhi and West Bengal, Some forums from both states accepted such complaints while the others rejected them.
-- A few forums accepted complaints regarding DTH services, data cards and Broadband services but rejected complaints regarding telephone connections.
-- Some forums suggested arbitration to resolve the complaint. But they did not give any other details.
Moreover, 44% of the 65 surveyed forums did not have a functional telephone line or a helpdesk. This made it impossible for consumers to get any information. For example, none of the forums in Gujarat (Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar) were reachable. Similarly, only one out of six forums in Uttar Pradesh had a functional helpdesk.
The Akosha Telecom Complaints Survey 2011 included 65 of the busiest District Consumer Forums. They were chosen as representatives of their states because they had the highest number of cases there. Out of these 65 forums, only 36 were reachable. The Akosha team tried contacting each forum at least three times at different times of the day. . After three unsuccessful attempts, the forum was marked as non-functional. To access the full findings of the survey, please read -http://info.akosha.com/consumer-complaints/telecom/the-mess-of-telecom-complaints-in-india-a-comprehensive-review/.
The government stand
Documents obtained by Akosha from an RTI activist show that the Department of Telecom (DOT) is also unhappy with the impracticality of the Supreme Court judgement and have considered filing a revision petition against it.
Here are the basic criticisms of the Supreme Court judgement as discussed in DOT notes:
-- Section7B refers to dispute between a person and telegraph authority. Telecom companies cannot be called "telegraph authority" by any stretch of imagination.
-- Section 3 of Consumer Protection Act clearly says that the act is a remedy in addition to any other remedy available to the consumer.
-- The TRAI Act clearly mentions that TRAI will hear complaints only from "group" of customers, not individual complaints. Legislative intent was to keep individual complaints with consumer forums.
-- Appointing arbitrators for the high-volume of telecom cases is not practical. Only the Central Government is authorized to appoint an arbitrator under the Telegraph Act. Considering the present multi-operator, multi-service scenario, coupled with intense competition and very high growth rate, it would not be practicable for the Central Government to appoint an arbitrator for each and every case.
Alongside DOT, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is also upset with the ruling. Documents obtained under the RTI Act shows that even the TRAI Secretary expressed similar views.
Akosha is a New Delhi based consumer help website which helps consumers and brands in resolving consumer complaints quickly. Akosha takes over the hassle of complaints from the customer and helps him get rid of the head ache. Akosha representatives reach out to the company officials and try to get the complaint resolved quickly. You can see its success stories at http://www.akosha.com/latesttestimonials.html.
More details are available at www.akosha.com