The Delhi State Consumer Commission has expressed its concern over private telecom operators reportedly overcharging customers by including undue charges in the bill, which are not rectified unless the subscribers point them out. The Commission sought the help of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to inquire whether “mistakes” in the bill were unintentional or on purpose.
It was hearing a petition filed by the private telecom operator Bharti Airtel seeking to set aside compensation of Rs 25,000 awarded by a Delhi District Forum to a consumer who had demanded a particular service which was not activated, but was charged for it. The company also charged money for free SMSes.
“It has been mentioned by the forum that Bharti Airtel has been earning huge profits by inserting such charges in the bill which are not actually due, and when a protest is lodged, it rectifies the error and makes adjustment in the bill, as has been done in this case. The forum rightly pointed out that this amounts to unjust enrichment and dishonest practice. It needs, however, a thorough enquiry by the TRAI to ascertain this circumstance and we believe that it will do so in public interest,” the Commission bench, comprising President Justice B A Zaidi and Member Salma Noor, said.
Taking note that the operator has accepted its mistake to complainant Nitin Jain, the Commission said “the district forum did not go wrong in raising doubts and suspicions about the genuineness of the error.” “Since there was an error in billing which has been accepted (by the company), Jain becomes entitled to damages and we would only say that damages are very honest,” it said.
The Commission said that the forum noted that the company was being unjustly enriched by levying unjustified charges in the bills. “However, for the present we are aware only of one single case. We cannot handover a final verdict with regard to Bharti Airtel adopting dishonest practice of this nature,” the Commission said.
Jain received the bill for the month of March-April 2005 in which undue charges were levied with regard to a ‘Hello Tune’ service which was not provided to the customer. and for free SMSes.