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The mental price of staying ‘connected’

From slow speed, unexplained bill amounts to unsatisfactory customer care, Internet users have a long list of grievances against their service providers.

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Despite repeated complaints, people rarely go to court 
If the Internet service is not working for more than seven days, consumers can complain to the concerned provider’s customer care centre and get the amount of money rebated or adjusted in the next month’s bill, for the number of days the service was closed.  

In case of complaints like slow speed compared to what is promised, unsatisfactory customer care or if consumers feel cheated in some way, there is a provision on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) website, wherein consumers can lodge their complaints.

As per the rules, every service provider has to appoint an area nodal officer. If your complaint is not addressed within a stipulated time through the regular redressal system, you can complain to the nodal officer of the company.

Even after doing so if your problem is not solved or considered, you can file a case in the consumer court.

In cases relating to slow speed of the Internet than what is promised in the selected package or any technical problem, you can also take the help of a technical expert. The expert can report the technical problem on an affidavit, which is acceptable.

We have received many complaints from consumers against Internet service providers, with regard to poor service, excessive charges and services that were not restored even after various complaints.

As the matter is nominal, it is never registered in court. The problem looks small on an individual level, so nobody bothers to stretch it. On a mass level, the issue becomes very big and the biggest benefactors are service providers.

So, it is important that consumers become aware of the issue and come together to protest if they feel cheated.
Dnyanaraj Sant, secretary, Grahak Hitvardhini

Most customer care officials are unaware of policies
Earlier, I was using the Internet service of You Telecom, as I had heard from many people that it was good. However, once I got the connection, I realised how wrong they were. I faced frequent problems with the connection and the speed would often be slow.

The service provider was clearly not bothered about it. Even after repeated complaints, the service failed to improve. They were not even clear about the usage policy. Service providers have certain strictures for unlimited download plans.

Once when I exceeded my limit, they created problems with the connection and cut down on the speed too. This caused a lot of hassle as my work completely depends on the Internet.

Later, I switched to Airtel and have been using their service since. Although I have not faced any problem with the connection, their customer care is not helpful. They have now also started charging for calls made to customer care.

Moreover, it takes forever for the executive to come on the line. Their fair usage policy is not made clear to the users. Also, often customer care executives are themselves not sure about the different plans and their policies. Instead of immediately addressing the issue, they ask you to call someone else or call again. Rarely do they end up helping us.
Sahil Khan, founder & chief lifestyle activist, TheTossedSalad.com

Consumers are usually unaware of the package they have
I do not agree that the BSNL broadband service has an unsatisfactory customer service or the provided speed is slow compared to what is promised.

Many times, consumers do not know which package they have taken on the basis of Internet speed and the limit of upload and download. There are various packages and each one has a limit of speed.

For example, if you take the unlimited download and upload package, which costs a fixed amount of Rs500 every month, the speed given is 256 kbps. The speed of your Internet also depends on the number of websites you have opened at one time, what you are downloading, website design and so on.

In case of a technical problem, the connection may or may not work, but the given speed will not vary. Normally, we provide connections to consumers who stay within a 3-km radius from our exchange centres and we assure them that the service within this radius will never fail.

We have different modules to address complaints. Consumers can dial our toll-free numbers or lodge their complaint via email. We also have a call centre where our engineers try to resolve problems on the telephone. If not, they make a visit and attend to the problem immediately.

The service can fail for a longer period when there is road digging work or if cables get damaged. This could take days to restore. In such cases, we give rebate to the consumers.      

Dinesh Kumar Maheshwari, general manager (development), BSNL Pune

We make it a point to address complaints within 24 hours

I have been working in the telecommunications industry for over a decade. I have come to realise during this course that a lot depends on the perception of the service users.
Perception is a major issue.

Many times, customers who have opted for retail connections expect services that are on a par with lease connections. Very few people, who are technologically aware, understand how it all works.

People do have a lot of connection-related issues. Most of the times, the problems they face are due to cable or fibre cut, which could be because of construction work going on at a place nearby. Sometimes, the problem is related to submarine cables. In such cases, it affects all Internet service providers.

Heavy rainfall and thunderstorm spell havoc for the connection. There is nothing we can do at such times. Customers must also realise that it is not in our hands.

As far as customer care is concerned, we make it a point to solve any query or complaint that we receive within 24 hours. If there is a serious problem, it takes slightly longer. However, 95% of complaints are addressed without delay.  

Sarita Athawale, service assurance head (rest of Maharashtra), TATA Communications Internet Services Limited

Connectivity issues will always be there with any provider
We cannot blame Internet service providers. They always apprise consumers of the maximum speed and do not mention the minimum speed because if they do, they will not be able to sell their packages.

Downtime and connectivity issues will always be there with any provider. It is better to opt for a post-paid service because you can withhold the payment of the bill if your complaint is not followed up.

For example, if the switch data transfer speed of 100 mbps is the capacity of the service provider — depending on how many subscribers are online at that time — the data transfer rates from the Internet go on dropping.

Therefore, home users will have to compromise on the speed, but they can complain if their lines are disconnected over a long period. They can also get the bill amount reimbursed or adjusted for that period. 

Leased lines are dedicated circuits provided by service providers, which ensure permanent connectivity to the Internet. The data transfer speed on these lines is fixed and does not differ like that provided to home users.

Leased lines, therefore, cost much more and are unaffordable for home users. These lines are dedicated and permanent, and are mostly taken by corporate offices. The traditional Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) lines are normally chosen by home users.

Ankur Agarwal, networking facilitator

Customers never know how bills are generated
The best option is to take the unlimited post-paid package and pay a fixed amount every month. It is true that Internet service providers do take us for a ride. We as subscribers do not understand how the bill is generated by these providers; most of the terms are in abbreviation that a common man cannot decode.

Even if there are certain hidden charges, how are we supposed to know? A similar problem persists with cellphone and telephone bills.

As these service providers have accounts that run over lakhs, even if they charge say Rs5 extra in every bill, it will go unnoticed.

However, their benefit will be huge.  

I have had a bad experience with the Internet connection I have right now. Most of the time, the speed is slow, especially in the peak hours during the day. If not slow, it gets disconnected — from five minutes to even a whole day.

Service providers make tall promises to market the product and we fall for them. The ordeal starts when you have already paid and you get poor service. In many cases, even after repeated complaints, your problem is not solved.

Though the service we get is frustrating, there is no other option so we continue it.

Anuradha Shinde, IT professional

If you subscribe to an unlimited package, the speed is always slow
I had a BSNL dial-up connection until January this year. While the service was quite good for the first few months, it started deteriorating later. There were many connection problems and the speed was slow, especially on weekends.

Eventually, it worsened to such an extent that it would never get connected at all. Even if it did, it would again get disconnected within a couple of minutes. I complained to the customer care many times, but to no avail.

The only thing they ever said was ho jayega. But it never happened. Frustrated, I decided to get rid of it and applied for the service to be discontinued. Then, I started receiving calls from them asking me not to unsubscribe. I did anyway.

I then got a Reliance wireless broadband connection and am quite satisfied with the service so far. The speed is excellent. The only problem is that it sometimes gets disconnected and then immediately connected on its own. Since that is not a major
issue, I never complained about it.

I have noticed that if you subscribe to an unlimited package, the speed is always slow, whichever the service provider. Also, post-paid connections work faster than prepaid ones. 

Mansi Gambhir, student

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