Citizens' Issues
Telecom operators continue to dupe subscribers on the pretext of data charges, 3G services

Subscribers of MTNL and BSNL are being charged for 3G data services irrespective of whether the 3G network is available at all locations in the telecom circle. Similarly, operators are charging for VAS on data services, even from subscribers who have not subscribed for this, while some are charging as high as Rs260 a day for GPRS services. Is there anyone who will regulate these errant operators?

After the launch of third generation (3G) services by a few operators, it was believed that tariff plans would earn more through data charges and not just call charges. While the changes-even the launch of 3G services-have yet to happen, what is stunning is that almost all operators are asking subscribers or deducting more money from customers on the pretext of providing data packages, irrespective of whether they provide 3G services, the old 2G or general packet radio service (GPRS).

In addition, this is not limited to mobile service providers, but applies to all telecom companies that provide data services. Moreover, companies like Vodafone and Bharti Airtel have published ads for 3G services; however, when someone from Mumbai inquired about tariffs, these companies chose to keep mum, till Tuesday afternoon. More on this later.

K Pushkar, a subscribers of Reliance Telecom (RCom) for Netconnect broadband services, found that the company had charged him Rs2,125.04 for value added services (VAS) apart from his regular tariff. He had opted for the tariff plan called Brdband10GBCTY12m200, through which he is supposed to get 10GB of data download/upload free of cost and would be charged Rs200 per GB of data. When he inquired with RCom, he was told, "These charges are for any other data usage made during the bill period apart from the free data usage provided as per the opted data tariff plan."

The only problem is that neither did Mr Pushkar opt for any VAS, nor did the company or its representative tell him about it. In addition, RCom did not provide any details about VAS charges, and instead asked Mr Pushkar to check the details of his usage on the company website.

RCom officials were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier, this writer had reported about mobile service providers charging more money for data services while roaming. (Read, 'Mobile phone shock: Pay extra for roaming to use data service'). A few days ago, Idea Cellular, the service provider that had emptied my balance, under the pretext of data charges while roaming, gave me another shock.

After my first experience, I opted for an unlimited data pack at Rs98 a month. The month passed by peacefully. Then, since the last day of my data package limit was a Sunday, I could not re-subscribe to the package. But on Monday, I got a jolt when I found that Idea had deducted Rs260 from my pre-paid account leaving a balance of a meagre Rs1.40.

So I called Idea customer services. As is the common tale, it took me over 10 minutes to get connected. Imagine my surprise when I heard a recorded message that I would be charged for talking to the company's representative. Left with no option, I decided to carry on and talk to the customer services representative on a per minute call tariff. The first minute was utilised by the representative to note down my details (that would be available from the company's computerised records visible on a computer screen before the representative). The representative told me he would have to check my complaint and that he would attend to me again in a few minutes. I was kept on hold for an extended period.

The representative came back on the line and told me that I was charged for browsing the internet. On asking for details, he said that I had used 1,300KB of data and was charged at 2paisa per KB. Even if I had used the data, by the rate he mentioned I should have been charged Rs26 and not Rs260. Moreover, this data was used in a single day. I wonder whether anybody, anywhere has paid Rs260 a day for browsing the internet from a mobile, that too for a total data usage of just 1.3MB!

I am still waiting for an explanation from Idea, which I am quite certain-from my previous experiences-will not come. What surprised me further, was that when I asked the representative whether I could unsubscribe from the data services, he replied in the negative. Presently, I am using an Idea SIM on my cell phone that does not have internet facility, to be on the safe side.

Are RCom and Idea the only operators over-charging on the pretext of data usage? Unfortunately, nearly all telecom service providers are trying to earn more revenues from subscribers through various means. For example, state-run MTNL and BSNL offer 3G services on mobile, but their 3G network is available in select areas only. The question is why do subscribers have to pay higher charges for 3G, when the service is not available in all areas? If a subscriber pays for 3G services, he/she must be able to use the 3G service at any place within the circle.

If this is not the case, the mobile operator should charge according to the availability of the network. Else, what is the point in paying for 3G services when all one is getting is a GPRS? It is an issue that consumer organisations would do well to take up with the authorities, like TRAI, the telecom regulator, and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

There is another interesting aspect. While state-run MTNL and BSNL have launched 3G services, private operators Tata DoCoMo, RCom and Bharti Airtel are offering the services in different circles. During the telecast of the cricket World Cup matches, you will see ads about 3G services from Vodafone. However, if someone from Mumbai wants to know the tariff and other details about the 3G services, company representatives are mum. They keep telling callers to wait for a few more days. The country's largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel has launched 3G services in the Mumbai circle only on Tuesday. As of today, only MTNL, RCom and now Airtel offer 3G services in the lucrative Mumbai circle, whereas Vodafone has not even said when they expect to launch the services.

Read related reports: Mobile phone shock: Pay extra for roaming to use data service,

3G fallout: Call-based tariffs to give way to data-based tariffs,

MNP turning out to be a mere 'placebo' for subscribers; mobile operators' margins may take a hit,



Amal Biswas

6 years ago

With usage of 1 hour after subscribing 3G vodafone actually charged me about 350Rs. making my balance drop to -190 rs in prepaid account. On asking for explanation they said i have used up 35 MB data in one hour. :(

Aarmin Banaji

6 years ago

In fact, all redressal mechanisms are worthless. From writing to Nodal Officers of the service providers to TRAI. This after being royally screwed by Airtel almost 2 years ago.
The biggest joke is that the local press in Nagpur has been waxing so eloquent about a speech made by Mittal to a group of students telling them how great India is as a land of entrepreneurial opportunity.
Sure it is Mr. Mittal, when you have an oraganisation which through totally unethical practice bilks its customers at every turn.

Ketan Pandit

6 years ago

This is exactly what I have faced with Airtel Mumbai with their Rs.98/2GB/month plan. But unfortunately the article does not advise the readers about the redressal mechanism.

SBI Life launches Smart Wealth Assure Ulip

SBI Life Smart Wealth Assure is a single premium plan and offers policyholders optional accidental death benefit and partial withdrawal facility from 6th policy year onwards

SBI Life Insurance has launched a unit linked plan-Smart Wealth Assure-aiming to provide guaranteed fixed returns to the policyholder.

Smart Wealth Assure guarantees at inception a pre-specified net asset value (NAV) applicable at the end of the 10-year term, SBI Life said in a statement.
SBI Life Smart Wealth Assure is a single premium plan and offers policyholders optional accidental death benefit and partial withdrawal facility from 6th policy year onwards.

The scheme would be available at a minimum amount of Rs50,000, and would cover policyholders from eight years to a maximum 65 years of age with a policy term of 10 to 30 years.

The fund would provide guaranteed fixed return, which provide the policyholder to choose for either of equity fund or P/E managed fund or bond fund.
Usually the return guarantee fund aims to provide guaranteed fixed return by investing mostly in fixed income securities, namely debt instruments.

With launch of Smart Wealth Assure, SBI Life now has a bouquet of eight Ulips catering to the long-term wealth creation and life insurance needs of varied customer segments.

As of January 2011, SBI Life's market share among private life insurers stood at 18.9%, while it was 5.6% when it came to total market share.


Religare Mutual Fund floats 370 days fixed maturity plan

Religare Mutual Fund new issue closes on 9th March

Religare Mutual Fund has launched Religare Fixed Maturity Plan-Series VI-Plan A to F-Plan B (370 Days), a close-ended income scheme.

The investment objective of the scheme is to generate income by investing in a portfolio of debt and money market instruments maturing on or before the date of maturity of the scheme.

The new issue closes on 9th March. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000.

CRISIL Short-Term Bond Fund Index is the benchmark index. Nitish Sikand is the fund manger for the scheme.


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