Airtel asked to compensate for “harassing” subscriber — What are the implications?


The New Delhi District Disputes Redressal Consumer Forum has ordered Bharti Airtel to pay a hefty Rs. 25,000 to one of its customers as compensation for demanding new documents aimed at verification. This happened in spite of the fact that the complainant, school teacher Manoj Kumar Sharma, had been using the post-paid Airtel facility for six long years!


A post paid connection warrants extra careful verification on the part of the service provider to prevent losses, but that is a logical pre-requisite that needs to be fulfilled well before the customer begins to enjoy the services.

Media reports point to Airtel’s defense claiming to simply adhere to norms laid out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India – if that is true, and the telecom giant has attempted to make sweeping changes in its verification methods, it is definitely a positive sign.

India is currently witnessing a revolution in frugal engineering, with telecom services being among the top examples. This concept involves getting services available to mass populations at extremely low prices. In the telecom domain, not surprisingly, this raises concerns on security and misuse.

The Implications

Services providers would be acting responsibly by putting national security before profits. However, if one has to go by Mr. Sharma’s claims of harassment, Airtel acted arbitrarily in blocking his outgoing calls, despite him offering to provide the new documents the company requested.

This action is reminiscent of narrations of unnecessary threats being sent out to customers to get them to “fall into line”.

There has been no word on Airtel detailing its stance or seeking an opportunity to appeal against the forum’s order. If this case is indeed a matter of Airtel’s wrongdoing, it is yet another indication of the chaos that has been afflicting the telecom industry at regular intervals, with consumers bearing the brunt.

One of the basic principles of customer relationship management requires maintaining instantly accessible records that provide metrics indicating customer satisfaction. How successful have telecom companies been on that front? Incidents like the one affecting Mr. Sharma would suggest there’s a problem.

Do you agree with the consumer forum’s decision to discipline Airtel? Do you think telecom companies are justified in re-verifying old customers, to conform to revised security-driven norms? Your comments are welcome!

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