Warning: This is a Rant. Proceed at your own peril
It’s 4:53 in the morning. I have been awake since 3:30 am. Being a software engineer I work crazy hours, so it’s not out of the ordinary, but today was special. I was in a drug (cough syrup) induced slumber trying to sleep off my sore throat and headache when I was rudely awakened by the buzzing of my phone. Groggy eyed I looked at the SMS (Texting in India is referred to as SMS) –
URGENT: Your subscription to News service has been renewed for 30 days. To unsubscribe SMS Unsub 1482 to 155223 (Toll Free).
Followed by an SMS saying my Balance was down to Rs. 14.xx.
I was like ‘F***’ what the hell? So I send the SMS. Wait 5 minutes no response! Last time they did this I had significant balance and I wasn’t sure if I was unsubscribed or not. Now it’s obvious I was not.
Groggy, angry and feeling like strangling someone I call up customer care. After 3 attempts I am able to connect to an option that allows me to ‘unsubscribe’ through the IVR system. Not happy with the ‘un-subscription’ only, I want to talk to someone. I want my money back! Things are not at bad as AT&T in US, after a couple of attempts I find the option on the IVR to connect to a customer service representative.
I ask the dude, if the phone belongs to me or Reliance?
He says, me!
Then how come Reliance keeps subscribing me to things I don’t want?
He starts mumbling apologies. (By this time I hear beeps on the phone indicating somewhere some system has got my un-subscribe requests and is sending acknowledgement SMSes (Texts)).
Dude is mumbling apologies and saying he’ll unsubscribe me but he can’t revert the money.
I say okay, connect me to your boss.
He’s like ‘sir supervisor will be available after 7:00 am’. Makes me even more furious, trying hard not to call names to anyone, I am like you send me a text at 3:30 am in the morning (violation of TRAI regulations) subscribing me to a service that I never asked for, I don’t care what it takes, refund my money or I am quitting Reliance first thing in the morning. I have been a customer for the last 9 odd years.
He tries to challenge me by saying how the subscription started, and finds out that they subscribed me via SMS on a DND/DNC number. Now he’s on the back-foot. He’s apologetic but can’t help so agrees to file a case. I rant at him some more (I am pretty sure I didn’t swear at him), at the back of my head I am like he’s just a bloke at the other end of the line, ‘he didn’t do this to me’.
Frustrated I hang up.
I get two more SMSes with my ‘case number’. Not helping.
I try to go back to sleep but I can’t. Lying here I am wondering what went wrong? Reliance Communications was a pioneer of sorts in India. Without Reliance we would still be in horrible tariff rates like in US. Reliance was the first to ‘not’ charge for incoming call’s airtime. Those were the days when there were very few carriers and exorbitant rates for incoming and outgoing calls. Reliance changed that all. It democratized Cell Phones and made it affordable to the the common man. Now it has just gone to the dogs.
Don’t know, probably a combination of mismanagement+greed+incompetence+’feeding the corruption’.
Reliance Communications was launched when Reliance was still a single company. Now it’s split up amongst the two brothers and Communications went to the brother who has driven almost all the established businesses to ground.
Maybe, but Airtel is a similar b*****. I have seen and heard horror stories from Airtel regarding similar fraudulent behavior. I have another Vodafone connection. They also subscribed me to some BS service, but it was unsubscribed automatically when I followed their instructions. Fair and square. Never had to deal with customer service (fingers crossed). So everyone does it but with varied levels of honesty.
Reliance seems particularly incompetent. Whether by design I don’t know. Their Online DND/DNC service does not work. They never acknowledged the requests. Similarly their DND/DNC SMS service also does not work. I am not sure but I think these are both TRAI violations. I had to call them up multiple times to enable the DNC service, before that I used to get about 2-3 SMSes per hour and uncounted number of junk calls.
On Vodafone it was automatic via SMS and completely without any other intervention.
Feeding the corruption?
This is probably the biggest issue, with regulatory restrictions limiting profits and ‘Auctioning of 2G/3G’ licenses requiring huge (alleged) kickbacks to corrupt ministers, companies are in a tight spot to stay afloat. They have resorted to these sleazy tactics to pass the buck of their corruption to their customers.
Whatever the reason, nothing justifies cheating and auto-subscribing to useless services is cheating.
Number portability and change of carrier. Come 7:00 am and I will call Reliance up to initiate my number porting. This is too old a number to give up. Once that is activated I will switch carriers.
Complain to TRAI!
This is also an option I am going to pursue. Someone needs to send official complaints. Hoping the process is not very convoluted.
Will anything change my mind?
NO. Here is why. I know other carriers will have their problems, but I also know that if I don’t take action I am just letting Reliance get away with this. They will continue doing this to the next customer. My un-subscription alone won’t stop it, but by taking action is the only way I can hit back. It only hurts them when customers leave. This is like voting. If we don’t vote to throw out the current incompetent in power we just let that incompetence set the bar. So after almost 9 years of being a Post-Paid and Pre-Paid customer I will quit Reliance Communications. ForEVER!
I still have the SMSes I received from Reliance when I tried to ‘unsubscribe’ the first time. Reliance sent back this SMS
Dear Customer, this service has moved, for queries please contact customer care.
Mind you, the subscription SMS says send SMS to unsubscribe, and when you send SMS it comes back with this. Also contacting Customer care costs you money, it’s not toll-free. So it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.