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India to provide hotline for mobile subscriber complaints

Customer care and support amongst Indian telecom operators varies, depending on the carrier and who you ask. Ultimately, the subscriber is left to determine whether their concern or query has been resolved. Now, subscribers will be able to follow up by calling a number to file complaints, regardless of carrier.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor on

The toll-free number, 1037, will soon be set up for Indian mobile subscribers to file complaints against their Indian telecom operators, according to a report by The Times of India. Currently, subscribers need to call their respective customer care representatives and file a complaint, which in itself can be a cumbersome task, involving nodal officers and higher authorities in cases of unsatisfactory replies. Even then, it's more likely for subscribers not to get satisfactory resolutions of their grievances, and, as such, this toll-free number is now being set up across India.

To be specific, the toll-free number 1037 has been allocated to the Public Grievances cell with the Department of Telecom (DoT) headquarters in New Delhi as a telecom consumer grievances helpline. What remains to be seen is how seriously complaints filed will be taken and followed up with the Indian telecom operators.

Speaking from previous experience, I've had a better overall experience with prepaid mobile connections instead of post-paid connections. I recall two specific instances, the first with Bharti Airtel and the second with Tata Teleservices. In the first instance, I signed up for a post-paid connection, only to realize that some international calls, specifically to the UAE, were barred. While I was able to call out to Canada and the US, for some reason, I would have to give Bharti Airtel a deposit of 4000 Indian rupees to call to the UAE. Since I wasn't told about this at the time of sign-up, I went to cancel my post-paid subscription, only to find that I would have to wait until the next billing cycle to do so, and, until then, I had no alternatives. I tried explaining how at no point did anyone inform me about placing a deposit, and, even then, I was told there was nothing that could be done. That was the end of my relationship with Bharti Airtel.

I had a similar experience a few years later with Tata Teleservices, where again, I went from a prepaid connection to post-paid, and all international calls were barred unless a deposit was given. This time, I was extremely upset, as a Tata Teleservices representative first called me to make me aware of the discounts of having a post-paid connection, and then set up an appointment for another representative to come to my house to sign up. Again, in both instances, I was never informed about having to place a deposit to make international calls. I specifically asked about this, and was told it would not blocked, but clearly, that wasn't the case. However, with Tata Teleservices, my grievance was resolved within a few days and I was placed back on the prepaid plan that I originally had. At least Tata Teleservices made the effort to retain me as a subscriber, most likely because I previously had a prepaid plan. In contrast, Bharti Airtel wasn't concerned about retaining me at all, and just wanted me to sit tight until the next billing cycle.

So in addition to now knowing that post-paid connections usually require a deposit of some kind for international calls, I found that the entire process of filing a complaint and following through can be nerve wracking, more so if the customer care representative isn't willing to side with the subscriber. But isn't the customer always right? Well, apparently when it comes to Indian mobile subscribers, it appears the answer is no. The reason is because the majority of subscribers are prepaid, and in addition to mobile portability, it appears to me that in some circumstances, losing an existing subscriber isn't really an issue, as new subscribers will eventually come along.

Furthermore, not much is said or talked about in India when it comes to grievances with the Indian mobile operators. Generally speaking, subscribers are content with what they have, and don't have any reasons to complain. At least now, those who do can call 1037 and really let their voice be heard.

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