The monthly ‘ Chai Pe Charcha ‘ pioneered by CGSI (Consumer Guidance Society of India) and focused on resolving consumer disputes in an amicable spirit through discussion, has come out with some path breaking solutions to addressing consumer grievances in the telecom sector. This highly thought provoking discussion saw representation from key players in the telecom sector besides dynamic participation by key committee members of CGSI.
Subsequent to the entire discussion, Dr. M. S. Kamath, General Secretary, CGSI, stated, “For the first time ever, industry as a whole and consumer activists sat together to try and make life simpler for both groups. The discussions were free-wheeling and frank with industry seeking the help of consumer groups to help them in solving some of their problems.”
For example, on the subject of Call Drops, industry representatives very frankly said that non-availability of Cell Tower Sites due to the `Radiation Scare’ had led to a situation, where operators were not in a position to guarantee uninterrupted service under certain circumstances. It was pointed out that spectrum was scarce, which added to the call drop problem as certain spectrum ranges were more efficient in penetrating thick walls or tall buildings. CGSI representatives said that it was in consumer interest to impress upon the authorities to streamline the process of issuance of permissions to the mobile operators and CGSI would play a positive role in this regard.
CGSI suggested that a simple technology was available to detect call drops by `Call Drop Meters’ which could be installed on every tower, which would faithfully record every call drop. This information could then be used by the operators to offer an equivalent or slightly more number of calls free of charge in the next cycle of billing for the consumer. This suggestion was unanimously approved and industry representatives said that they would try to implement the same at the earliest. Certain points like illegal boosters installed by some unscrupulous individuals or poor quality of handsets were consumer issues which CGSI promised to attend to by public awareness campaigns.
Another hot topic for discussion was the activation of unwanted services by the operators that often led to unwanted or inflated bills. Industry admitted that Value Added Services (as they are called) were outsourced to third parties outside the company. Though there was a `Double Validation’ method for activating such services, the service providers still received a large number of complaints about unwarranted activation of these services. CGSI demanded and called upon industry to penalize those companies that activated such services for dubious reasons, a demand that was readily accepted by industry.