1. (a) This Complaint is filed on 30.11.2008. The Complaint in brief is as hereunder; Bharthi Airtel Limited is a Company carrying on the business of providing telecommunication and related services. The Complainant had availed mobile phone connection to his mobile handset from the Opposite Party-Service Provider. It bears No. 9845338393. That connection was so availed in the year 2002 itself against a security deposit of Rs.4,500/-. It was a postpaid connection. The Complainant was making the payment regularly till September 2006.
(b) In August 2006, the Complainant had to go to U.K. on assignment. In that connection, he requested the Opposite Party-Company (hereafter OP-Company), Bharthi Airtel Limited to keep his mobile phone connection in their “Number Holding Service” by paying a monthly charge of Rs.99/- commencing from September 2006. The Complainant had also kept sufficient money in credit to cover the said charges. The Complainant had also the facility of making that payment directly through his credit-card account.
(c) Though, the Complainant requested so, the OP-Company did not do so. The Complainant contacted them through their Internet Portal for which the Complainant had access and enquired the status and urged them to keep-up their commitment so that he need not worry about getting large bills. There was no reply from the OP-Company.
(d) Thereafter, in September 2006, the Executives of the OP-Company called on the Complainant through his India number and they talked to the daughter of the Complainant who was at home. Even though the Complainant had requested the OP-Company through their Internet Portal to call him over telephone to his UK number, they kept on calling the Complainant on his Indian telephone number and tried to be benefited from out of the same since the Complainant was on international roaming. They continued to debit in his account for all the roaming charges as well as the custody charges. By October 2006 without intimation suddenly the Complainant was disabled to have access to his account online. In December 2006 when the wife of the Complainant went to the office of the Opposite Party to get the connection back as per the authorization of the Complainant, she was informed that the said connection was already terminated.
(e) It was surprising to note that the said connection itself was terminated. Infact there was no communication either in writing or telephonically by the Opposite Party to the Complainant. However, through E-Mails, the Complainant tried to know the reason for that termination. Ultimately in April and June 2007, the Complainant had to visit the office of the OP-Company to get that connection reactivated. No one was prepared to answer in the OP-Company as to how the above development had happened. Moreover, that Security Deposit also remained unreleased.
(f) The Complainant became frustrated on account of the above conduct of the OP-Company and he moved for refund of that Security Deposit amount with the excess amount available in the concerned account. The Complainant received a letter dt.24.7.2007 by way of acknowledgement. Though a cheque was promised, it never reached the Complainant. There was no communication also regarding the sending of that cheque. In September 2008, the Complainant finally returned from U.K. and contacted the OP-Company in that regard. Infact the Complainant might have raised not less than 10 Complaints in that connection to the OP-Company. His request for giving back his old number was also not honoured. Ultimately, the Complainant had to contact the President of the OP-Company Mr. Sanjay Kumar who is the 2nd Opposite Party herein and explained the situation.
Then only they became alert and their Executive Ms. Bhanu Narayan assured the Complainant that an investigation would be held. Ultimately, they credited the Security Deposit amount to the account of the Complainant only on 4.10.2008 and they should have done it long back in July 2007, if not, in September 2006. Mr. Ananth one of the Vice Presidents of the OP-Company and another Mr. Sajit who headed the Customer Experience Team contacted the Complainant regarding the ways and means of compensation. They agreed to credit only that Airtel phone connection charges to the tune of Rs.5,000/- and there was no cash reimbursement. In the circumstances, the above conduct of the Opposite Party since amounted to deficiency of service and since the Complainant is put to agony, sufferance and loss on account of the same, this Complaint is necessitated to direct the Opposite Parties to reimburse the cost of Rs.3,750/- and compensate him in a sum of Rs.10,000/- and also to grant such other reliefs deemed fit in the circumstances of the case in his favour. Along with the Complaint, the Complainant has made xerox copies of some documents.
2. (a) The Opposite Parties have made available their Version of the case on 22.1.2009. In brief, it is as hereunder: This Complaint is neither maintainable at law, nor on facts of the case. The grievances of the Complainant have already been met with and there is no reason for the Complainant to file this Complaint. It is at the instance of the Complainant, the OP-Company had to close the account and credit the available amount in deposit to the account of the Complainant and as on the date of the Complaint, the Complainant was no longer a Subscriber of the Opposite Party.
(b) It is true the Complainant had asked the Opposite Party to keep the mobile connection in safe custody from September 2006. Accordingly, it was kept in safe custody. Infact the bill dt.9.10.2006 was adjusted towards the amount available in the account of the Complainant. However, subsequently, the user of that phone in India had informed the Opposite Party that they are not interested to continue that connection and sought for disconnection of the phone and accordingly, that telephone connection was disconnected. This development was very much within the knowledge of the Complainant. At that time, there was no request by the Complainant for reactivation of that phone, nor any Authorized Agent of the Complainant requested in that regard. Infact the Complainant was not available in the address given to the Opposite Party and since his phone was not in activation, the Opposite Party were unable to contact him and send the deposit amount to his address. Infact the Opposite Party had sent a cheque through Courier Service to the Complainant and it came to be returned. It is only on the request of the Complainant subsequently, that amount was credited to the account of the Complainant. There was no willful negligence on the part of the Opposite Party. Inspite of the appraisal of the same by the Executives of the OP-Company to the satisfaction of the Complainant, the Complainant has chosen to file this Complaint. The allegations made in the Complaint therefore, are not true to facts. The Complainant has not been put to any sort of inconvenience or hardship or harassment as alleged.
It is denied that the Opposite Party had agreed to pay a sum of Rs.5,000/- to the account of the Complainant. It is also denied that the Executives of the Opposite Party committed any error in terminating that connection. In the circumstances, this Complaint has to be dismissed with the exemplary costs of the Opposite Party. Along with the Version, the Opposite Parties have made available xerox copies of the Account Summary and Itemized Statement including roaming statement touching the Complainant’s telephone connection.
3. In the light of the contentions of the parties, they were called upon to produce evidence by way of affidavits and documents. Accordingly, the Complainant has produced his affidavit on 11.2.2009 along with 3 documents. For the Opposite Parties, one Prashanth N., S/o Nagaraja Rao, Officer-Legal in the OP-Company as their Authorized Person has sworn to an affidavit which is made available on 19.2.2009. At the end, this Forum heard on merits.
4. The learned Counsel representing the OP-Company laid emphasize on the fact that what was required to be refunded to the Complainant has been refunded ofcourse with some delay and that the same in the circumstances cannot be made much of. However, the Complainant has tried to impress upon this Forum that he was not very much after the refund of the money and on the other hand, what has annoyed him is, the conduct of the OP-Company which amounted to harassment and that the OP-Company in their wisdom could have certainly avoided the same and therefore, the matter may not be taken as lightly as sought for by the OP-Company.
5. In the circumstances, the following points do arise for our consideration and decision and they are; (i) Whether the Complainant has become successful in establishing the alleged deficiency of service by the OP-Company? (ii) If so, whether the Complainant is entitled for any relief against the OP-Company in this case? (iii) What Order?
6. Our Findings to these points are as hereunder:
iii) As shown in the operative portion of the Order here below.
7. We shall substantiate our findings on the following: R E A S O N S POINT NOS.1, 2 & 3:
(a) It is not in dispute that the Complainant is a good old customer of the Opposite Party-Service Provider in respect of a mobile phone bearing No.9845338393. As revealed in the evidence and quite admittedly too, he was a customer of the Opposite Party-Service Provider right from the 2002 and that their relationship was quite normal till September 2006 and according to the Complainant, that relationship got strained only on account of the commissions and omissions of the Opposite Party-Service Provider.
(b) According to the Complainant, in the month of August 2006, he was required to go UK on assignment and in that connection, he requested the Opposite Party-Service Provider to keep his mobile phone connection in their “Number Holding Service” by paying a monthly charge of Rs.99/- right from the month of September 2006 and that to meet the situation, he had also kept sufficient amount in credit to cover those charges with an arrangement to make direct payment through his Credit Card from his Banker namely the Standard Chartered Bank for which, the OP-Company consented. The grievance of the Complainant is that though the Opposite Party agreed, they did not act in furtherance of the same and made him to suffer physically, mentally and financially too. What we feel is, the Opposite Party-Service Provider in the circumstances ought to have kept-up their commitment as far as the Complainant’s request is concerned. According to the Complainant, without making such an arrangement, the Opposite Party began to debit in his amount for roaming charges. According to the Complainant, inspite of him providing his contact number, the Executives of the Opposite Party-Company began to contact through the above mobile phone number to the inmates of his house in Bangalore though he was away in U.K. and thereby the Opposite Party-Service Provider claimed roaming charges. It was an unnecessary exercise. Further, it is the grievance of the Complainant that to his surprise, suddenly, the Opposite Party-Service Provider disconnected that mobile phone in October 2006 without laying any intimation. Further, it is the grievance of the Complainant that when his wife in the month of December 2006 approached one of the Office-bearers of the Opposite Party-Service Provider in their Office as per his Authorization letter, they informed her that the very connection has been terminated and when that was brought to the notice of the Complainant, he tried his level best to get the needful done and inspite of the same, they did not bother to provide him reconnection to that mobile phone. It is the further contention of the Complainant that during his subsequent visits in April and June 2007 to India, he visited the Opposite Party-Service Provider many times to get that connection reactivated and the Opposite Party did not show any inclination to reconnect. Therefore, according to the Complainant, that very act of termination of connection to that mobile phone was not only an arbitrary act of the Opposite Party-Service Provider, but also an inequitous one. Having agreed and having received the necessary amount in that regard to keep that mobile phone in their “Number Holding Service”, according to the Complainant, they should not have proceeded to disconnect that very connection itself that too, behind the back of Subscriber namely, himself. Therefore according to him, the above act of the Opposite Party-Service Provider made him to get frustrated and that resulted in placing a demand to refund the amount so deposited by him while for availing that service as Security Deposit including the excess amount available in the said account which was paid during September 2006. Such a demand was made on 12.6.2007 and the Opposite Party-Service Provider agreed for the same but, did not act swiftly.
(c) As revealed in the evidence, the Complainant received a letter dt.24.7.2007 from the Opposite Party acknowledging the above request of the Complainant and informing in turn that the amount payable to the Complainant would be sent through cheque. Though it was so informed, according to the Complainant, there was no cheque at all and finally when he returned from UK in September 2008 he again contacted the Opposite Party-Service Provider in that regard and again placed his request to give him reconnection to the very same old number for which, the Opposite Party told that it is not possible. Even at that stage, according to the Complainant, they failed to refund that amount so deposited and that atlast, the Complainant had to contact the 2nd Opposite Party who is the Head of the Opposite Party-Service Provider with a Complaint who in turn, put the concerned Executive on alert and finally on 4.10.2008, the amount to be refunded came to be credited to the bank account of the Complainant. The documentary evidence made available by the Complainant by way of letters of correspondence which have remained unchallenged, would clearly go to show that the Opposite Party-Service Provider have not only failed to keep-up their promise, but also dodged to discharge of their liability to a considerable length of time and made the Complainant to undergo lot of mental trauma and harassment for no fault on his part. According to the Complainant, while availing that mobile connection, he had given a security deposit of Rs.4,500/- and again while he had sought for keeping that mobile telephone in their “Number Holding Service”, he had paid a sum of Rs.2,000/- through the Credit Card on 6.9.2006 as per the receipt made available by the Opposite Party-Service Provider a copy of which, is in evidence here. In one of the correspondence letter dt.12.2.2007 sent through E-Mail which is in evidence, the Complainant has made it very clear to the Opposite Party-Service Provider that he being a staunch Airtel customer since 2002 and since he did not commit any delay in payment of any amount touching that service at any point of time, there could not have been any justification for the Opposite Party-Service Provider to so put him to inconvenience and harassment.
Nodoubt in one of their E-Mail correspondence dt. 6.10.2008, the Opposite Party-Service Provider have apologized and expressed their regret for the inconvenience caused to the Complainant. But it is significant to note that such an expression has come only when the Complainant had contacted the 2nd Opposite Party as per the E-Mail dt.22.9.2008 and not previously. Moreover, that response has come only when the Complainant had cautioned them through the E-Mail dt.3.10.2008 that he would take appropriate action for their callousness, indifference and deficiency of service.
(d) Wherefore in the above circumstances, we are of the considered opinion that the Opposite Party-Service Provider is not justified in any manner in inconveniencing and harassing the Complainant as stated supra. It may be that they might have refunded the amount payable to the Complainant. Still the fact remains that even that refund was so made after undue delay that too only after the intervention of the higher-ups in the Opposite Party-Company. Instead of expressing sorry at the latest stage, the Opposite Party-Service Provider could have done what was required to be done by them at the appropriate time without precipitating the issue. Wherefore, the above conduct of the Opposite Party-Service Provider would certainly amount to deficiency of service within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
(e) Nodoubt, the Complainant has claimed compensation in a sum of Rs.10,000/- and another sum of Rs.3,000/- by way of cost of the litigation. However having regard to the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, what we feel is, the compensation so claimed by the Complainant is somewhat on the higher side and that the ends of justice would meet if the same is fixed at Rs.3,000/-. As far as the cost is concerned, this is a fit case wherein the Complainant need be provided with cost of this litigation. However what we feel is, it can be modestly estimated and fixed at Rs.2,000/-. Accordingly, we proceed to pass the following:
ORDER Since the Complainant has become successful in establishing the alleged deficiency of service by the Opposite Party-Company and since the Complainant has been put to agony, sufferance and loss on account of the same, the Opposite Parties are hereby directed to compensate the Complainant in a sum of Rs.3,000/- (Rupees three thousand) and pay a sum of Rs.2,000/- to the Complainant by way of cost of this litigation within 30 days from this date.
If the payment of compensation is not made by that time, the said amount shall carry interest at 12% p.a. right from the date of the Complaint, till payment. In the circumstances, it is for the 2nd Opposite Party to pull up his subordinates who are responsible for the Complainant to approach this Forum and take appropriate action against them in the best interests of their Customers at large and their own interest.