For The Kind Attention Of Mr Anil Ambani
August 7, 2016 5 Comments
As an e-mail to you office on the 31st of July has gone unacknowledged and phone calls to landline numbers publicly listed as those of your office went unattended on the following Monday, please allow me to make you aware of my recent experiences with RCom.
This dispute is something that should not have arisen in the first place, started out as something very trivial but has since then been escalated by your employees to massive proportions. As a digital entrepreneur who boot-straps her ventures via freelance assignments in digital PR and marketing, I’m sure you’ll understand how much I resent your employees behaviour over these months that has both cost me in immediate and lifetime revenues that it has taken me time and effort to build and influential contacts that I was banking on to grow my startups.
I have since then approached the District Consumer Forum and was advised by the Registrar to allow him a chance to resolve the matter without many years of litigation. Accordingly he has allowed Mr Vishal Gurung, RCom’s Appellate Authority time till Monday to find an amicable solution, failing which he will register my case.
As an entrepreneur yourself, I’m hoping that you will understand in a way no employee ever would, how long and hard an entrepreneur will fight for a beloved business and that after a pitched battle no side comes out a winner. I’m hoping that as yet you as the elder will take the initiative and come up with a creative solution that will suit us both and that employees who plead an inability to take a decision not provided for by company policy will not lock us into years of disputation.
Please find below a restatement of the facts of the case that I e-mailed you last week.
1. PURCHASE DETAILS:
Paid Rs 6000 on 7/11/2015 for a hybrid(works in CDMA and GSM)USB Datacard and one year’s worth of internet at 14.7Mbps speed and unlimited downloads, to be renewed every subsequent year on payment of Rs 4764.
2.PUSHING FOR SALE OF ANOTHER LOCKED DEVICE:
From May2016 I started getting SMSs announcing the “Good News” of 4G at 3G prices, on payment of 899 only for a device at a “massive 75% discount”.
I was not interested in the promotion as too many people online were complaining about unstable 4G services and being cheated by various companies. Apparently 4G was enthusing people even less than 3G. Anyways, whatever the specs of the devices I picked up, the 4G version was then about a 1000 rupees more. So my inclination was to wait till all the buzz and hoopla round 4G died down and it became a more widely used service before I considered an upgrade.
But soon I start receiving not only a barrage of SMSs and phone calls, multiple times a day, to rush to various Reliance Galleries and pick up the device “Reserved” for me at the “Special” Price of 899/- only but a whole lot of misleading sales spiels:
“2G and 3G coexist. So will my 3G not continue working even as the company introduces 4G ?”
“I don’t know maam. You need to visit Reliance Galleries for more information. They will help you. I’ll SMS you the address of the 4 nearest galleries.”
So are there galleries at Seawoods at the addresses I was given?
I got to make my own enquiries and locate them.
Meanwhile my internet connection is switched off as added incentive to get me moving.
Customers now driven in-store ,do we get after sales services?
Just a threat that we must immediately take advantage of the one time opportunity to upgrade our device at 899/- only or pay the full price of 3999/- later !
A press-gang sale if ever I saw one.
“So what about the terms of our original contract ?”
“So what about it ? We are still giving you the same service.”
“So what about the locked device I already paid for just 5 months ago?”(the third device locked device that I would have to junk in quick succession.)
“That was FREE?”
“So why the different prices in first year and subsequent year charges? Seems like bundling.”
“You need to call customer care, they will answer your question.”
So I call customer care from the gallery in Seawoods. Unfortunately Vodafone phones don’t get reception from this Reliance gallery.
“I’m not able to reach them.”
“Here’s the address of the Appellate Authority Vishal Gurung. Goto Santa Cruz.”
So off Santa Cruz it was for the first time on 3June.
3.FIRST VISIT: 3-6-2016
There were a whole lot of irate people demanding to see Vishal Gurung immediately. Also one irate gentleman wanting to meet his old friend Anil Ambani to give him some frank feedback.
Somebody was worked up about the fact that Reliance service personnel who were to restore switch-board functions at his company’s HQ were rude to his MD and after a week had still not restored proper service.
Somebody else was angry that his courier service in 147 cities was severely disrupted.
Another was complaining that his trucking business was bleeding money.
And an LIC Agent from 912 branch Fort who was having trouble servicing his clients and checking-up on his wife who was admitted in hospital.
It was quite a while before my turn came up.
That’s the day I first met Mr Tilak Chatterjee who had himself to take up my case after a bunch technicians were unable to restore service. As it was getting very late, Tilak promised to keep working on the problem and restore services by the next morning. All I had to do was keep my device on in “hybrid mode”. And enter ADMIN as ID and Password.
Next morning comes and services are not restored. Mr Chatterjee has proceeded on leave.
Meanwhile I have missed delivering work for 3 clients before their product launch. So loss of money , loss of professional reputation and losing 3 good agencies with a good record of bringing me interesting assignments from some pretty decent brands .I have to deal with irate customers. Also I have to call up a few more people and give them warning that I may be late in turning in work or might not make their deadlines, so please make alternate arrangements in the last minute. Next , there was the job of arranging for an internet connection on a week-end.
A few days later having settled things down a bit, I visit Reliance Communication’s Santa Cruz office again to get my services restored. I ask to meet Mr Gurung again. Mr Chatterjee is still on leave. This time my case is handled by engineer Nair. He has to work many many hours but he manages to restore services by 7pm that night. I really appreciate the man’s efforts. He continued to stick to work, even as he received multiple calls from home w.r.t his mother who was in hospital.
5.HIGH PRESSURE SALES TACTICS CONTINUE:
I ignored the continuing barrage of SMSs and phone calls multiple times daily and thought the matter resolved now that my internet connection was turned on by the Appellate Authority. I was sadly mistaken. My internet was again turned off without warning and my whole life severely disrupted. Once again there were a bunch of assignments that couldn’t be turned in on time, loss of income and irate customers.
5.THIRD VISIT: 9-7-2016
I spent over 4hours with the people at Reliance Communications again, getting them to honour promises and stick to the terms of our contract.
While spending a whole evening impressing upon them that it’s not OK for them to unilaterally change the terms of a contract and bill me for their business development ,I found their teams absolutely unwilling to put down/reduce to writing ,on paper, any stand they chose to make.
So, insist that they put in writing their inability/unwillingness to provide service as contracted, in an e-mail and invite me to apply for a refund, as Mr Tilak Chatterjee, heading their team suggested and they quickly back-track to offering coffee and refreshments.
Ultimately, nothing in writing was forthcoming, just apologies that they are merely paid employees and can’t take decisions on their own but must follow company/management decisions.
Insist that the company pay you a 12% interest on your money that they need 45 days to refund and see them balk! And this from supposed billionaires !
As I continued to insist that I was absolutely unwilling to fork out for a new locked device whose only use was to access their service and that I need a 12% interest on any company calculated refund that it takes them 45days to refund, Tilak thought up the idea of restoring connection via SIM in my 3G only Nokia 520 phone. As it involved no further expense on my part and would allow me to have internet restored, allowing me to quickly get back to work, I agreed.
In this visit too, other than an assurance that Mr Gurung was being kept in the loop, I wasn’t connected to him.
The internet connection ran fine for an hour or so before I turned in that night but was dead by next morning.
Screenshots of 10July
Screenshots of 11July
6.FOURTH VISIT: 11-7-2016 :
This visit Mr Chatterjee made a number of phone calls to his technical team to try and determine what might be the reason that my connection that was running perfectly fine at the moment at the Reliance Santa Cruz office had fallen dead at my place.
This visit too I insisted on meeting with Mr Gurung.
My 3 requirements were :
1.Provision of 14.7Mbps speed (they admit they never could do more than 6-8Mbps download and 1-2Mbps in even the best case scenario).I’m not buying any more locked devices from my end after being forced by the company to junk the previous 3.Unlimited data downloads as originally promised at the originally contracted rates and multi-year renewal of the contract at the prices originally contracted.
Frankly I don’t care what technology they use.
2.An acknowledgement of the harassment by the company, its employees and some of their security personnel, the distress needlessly caused to me and a full apology for the same.
3.Financial compensation for my loss of income, loss of valuable clients, loss of business reputation and mental agony.
I left with the understanding that on the morrow a technical team would visit my home to check technical parameters and then with all the facts at his disposal Mr Gurung would call me with his final decision.
In case 3G were not available, the company would execute the original contract via 4G,that might be possible if my new phone to be delivered that night was 4G compatible.
7.SITE ASSESSMENT: 12-7-2016
According to the Reliance Communications Team, their 3G is not available at Sector 58A Nerul, Seawoods Navi Mumbai but 4G is.
As my new phone, that was delivered the previous night is 4G compatible, the connection was restored via 4G.
However, I did find the technical team’s supposed finding curious. In the same location my CDMA+GSM USB dongle worked fine. Also internet via my 3G GSM only Nokia 520 phone did work fine on 9th night. And this phone doesn’t support CDMA and any 4G services would work at 3G speeds only.
However as I didn’t care what mobile technology Reliance Communications used, I merely focused on getting Mr Gurung to take a decision one way or the other on the rest of my requirements and give them all to me in writing.
8. 13-7-2016 Calls From Reliance Communications
First there was a call from a Reliance Communication’s Relationship Manager.
I’ve conveyed to him that I have 3 Requirements of the company ,I’ve outlined them clearly to Mr Tilak Chatterjee and their Appellate Authority may please take his decision on them and convey them to me.
And to give myself peace of mind, I prefer all things reduced to writing.
A little while later there was another call from Sayeed of Reliance Communications -Santa Cruz, .
I merely informed him that a dispute is pending, his Dy Gen Mgr Mr Tilak Chatterjee is aware of it and I am waiting for their Appellate Authority’s final decision.
9.In the Limbo
I didn’t hear from Mr Gurung.
Meanwhile I turned my attention back to my work that was badly derailed.
I tried contacting Mr Tilak Chatterjee on 20-7-2016 to try and close matters, however there was no call pick-up from him.
Soon things got bad again.
Here are screenshots. Note the 3G being detected by my phone in SIM-2(Reliance)
10 SMSs of concern.
Here are SMS’s recieved on 26-7-2016.
No SMS of this type should be generated in any multi year, annually renewable, advance rental plan with truly unlimited downloads such as I have.
11.FIFTH VISIT: 27-7-2016
On 27th morning I woke up to a completely dead internet connection making a 5th visit to the Appellate Authority a necessity if I wish to get on with work.
This time, besides me there were 2 other complainants :
1.The owner of TV-9,a former UTV-2 journalist.
2.A former auditor of Reliance
We had to as usual stand round for about 40 minutes as no chairs were offered for us to sit on.
As usual the guards grumbled big time about how aggrieved customers kept the single telephone line busy for hours, cutting off communication between gates 4 and 5 and putting the whole Reliance building in danger in case of attack.
Also another titbit courtesy the guards, a customer ,forced to stand, had collapsed at the guard-house in the morning from high BP.
The journalist had a cell phone and landline with a Reliance connection. On their own initiative, the company had changed his plan and the first he heard of it was when he was sent a bill for roaming, never mind that in his original plan roaming was free.
The auditor had paid Rs21000 in advance for an i-phone data plan and found himself with a different plan and data services barred.
I had to cool my heels for 40 minutes, the journalist had reached before me.
First came a person to deal with the journalist. He was sent home with the assurance that the company would contact him on the next day to resolve the matter.
Next the auditor was politely escorted in for further parleys with the management.
A few minutes later Tilak Chatterjee arrived to make my mom and I visitor passes to enter the second floor.
The meeting started with me showing Tilak Chatterjee the screenshots of poor service during the past few days, the detection of 3G not 4G on my phone(3G that was supposedly unavailable in sector 58A Seawoods, Nerul, Navi-Mumbi,the reason he cited for his 3rd fix of the third meeting not working and the need to execute the prior contract via 4G.)
Tilak took down my dongle number and went to check up details and returned with Sharmin Fernandez, SAAS Head, who claimed to be fully conversant with my case and from that point on the meeting went downhill. Not only was the lady not interested in doing anything other than parroting the company line that she was obviously under orders to hold but she had no compunction in using her gender to give herself and her company an unfair advantage by remarking upon her perception of my arrogance, my not sharing her superior standards of moral behaviour, my intruding in her personal space when no body part of mine was any closer to her than a foot away, remarking on what she felt was my poor treatment of my mother etc.at every turn when she really had no answers to offer, just restatements of her current company line, no matter that the company line was different from that of the previous 4 times. And she did repeatedly object to my recording our interaction and stated that she didn’t like it or give her consent .However as I had no other way of securing my interests in the face of the company’s repeated refusal to set down in writing various settlements and tendency to repeatedly put out different stories and put me at a disadvantage, I said I had no alternatives and that she had to adjust and live with my recording in the same way as I have had to live with her company’s actions and her behaviour.
First she started with telling me that I had opted for a 4G plan and exceeded the 5GB download limit and so was cut off. I made clear that I had made adjustments for her company to be able to execute a prior contract and had in no way opted for any 4G plan.
Then she started with offering me a refund for the remaining months of my plan. I reminded her that on my third visit Tilak offered me the option of a company calculated refund after 45days and its when I asked for a 12% interest for those 45days that he came up with the option of connecting via a sim in my 3G Nokia phone. And today after many weeks of harassment and many lakhs loss of business, I’m hardly likely to be glad to have the company refund me a little of my own money back. And in any case, I have so long been insisting that the company deliver to me what it promised:14.7Mbps,unlimited downloads, renewable at predetermined prices. I had little interest in which mobile technology they offered the above on ,as long as they didn’t insist on me buying a device.
Then I insisted on meeting Mr Gurung as was my original intention and as I was bade to do by the Reliance Galleries. Sharmin replied that he was on leave and that she could arrange a meeting on Saturday. And he can’t be disturbed before that.
Ask her what I was to do for internet in the interim and her solution is to immediately pay her Rs900 of the Rs 3500 that she claimed that I owed the company for excess usage and have my connection restored!
As my contention is that I don’t owe the company anything as my connection was merely a way for the company to deliver via 4G its original commitment of 14.7 Mbps speed and unlimited download as their technicians reported that 3G could not be delivered by the company at sector 58A Nerul, no matter that my phone has been constantly detecting Reliance 3G and its been captured in the screen-shots, does she have any alternative where I don’t have to pay extra for data? No way. I got to pay or do without internet.
Does the fact that I have an important meeting tomorrow and need the internet to prepare for it matter and that it would take me 24-48hrs to buy an alternative connection, effectively ensuring that I can’t proceed with work matter ?No. All I have to do is pay a minimum of Rs900 to have the connection restored immediately.
Ask to meet whoever deals with Mr Gurung’s work in his absence, and Sharmin claims that its she. Then ask to escalate the matter to Mr Gurung’s boss .She can’t do that. Reliance respects the work-life balance of its people. Come back on Saturday and meet with Mr Gurung.
What about the work and the life of Reliance customers held hostage by their welching on agreements? And has Mr Gurung been on leave all these 6 weeks?Would anybody in the management consider traveling 3+ hours by the suburbans 5 times in the rains,forego their income for the day and try to set right things, if not why expect customers to do so? And in the face of all the efforts I have made to meet them 5 times over why is it so hard for people to spare a few moments on phone or messenger to take a decision either way and allow me to pursue whatever other courses of action are available to me to seek justice?
Try and address questions directly to Tilak who was actually present at the past dealings whether at any time I’d agreed to any scheme with a download limit,the question is fielded by Sharmin. When I insist that he speaks, she intervenes to say they are both on the same team. She then proceeds to insist that we not keep Mr Tilak back as poor man he comes from so far off. Nevermind that he has previously waited later on other days till the problem was solved and that we have travelled much further than him. As Mr Tilak is still hanging round, she then proceeds to insist that he leaves.
Then she proceeds to insist that we leave as she wishes to leave. I suggest that she may leave if she chooses to. At this point I call my dad and find out that he is back in Seawoods and it would take his about 2hrs to reach Santa Cruz.I wish to have him round while going to file a complaint with the police. That way I would have a measure of safety from the company claiming that I owe them a much bigger amount a few days down the line.
As we continue insisting on staying put, Sharmin retreats to get in touch with Mr Gurung and offers to restore my connection on my verbal assurance to pay the due amount on the morrow. I refuse to pay anything extra for downloads as my plan was originally sold to me as an unlimited download, multi-year renewable contract at pre-agreed prices and 4G was merely the company’s choice to deliver it as they had better use for the 850MHz spectrum and found it possible to deliver 4G but not 3G at Sector 58A Nerul.
And by now I am most keen to protect myself from the company insisting that I have humungus overnight downloads and presenting me with a few lakhs worth of bills as further harassment.
Its at this point that my mom asks that if Mr Gurung could make this offer online at that hour, why could he not have taken a short call a few hours earlier. At her age and unwell condition, she certainly doesn’t like traveling unnecessarily and she can’t stay back after she herself saw firearms in backpacks passing through the gates.
Sharmin then insists that we wait past the gates and threatens us with eviction by security. Now standing 2 hours out in the rain, just to accommodate a small person’s spite seemed to be a big price to pay, so I kept her talking while my mom availed a bathroom break. I first told Sharmin that she could leave and we would leave when it was convenient for us. Then she proceeded to impress upon us that the whole of the second floor was under her safekeeping ,never mind that for all to see,the second floor is designated as the common location housing many ADAG companies. Then as she insisted on calling security I bade her do so. And a little while later a genial security guard from Peregrine arrives with a bunch of his curious buddies out of uniform. Then she proceeds to inform them to get us out of the building. And the guy asks me what’s the issue. I proceed to tell him that its nothing much to do with his company .I am having a dispute with Reliance and am waiting here for reinforcements before approaching the police. He informs me that Sharmin wants us off the 2nd floor. I ask him what is the security concern. As he can see we are 2 women, not particularily hefty, we are unarmed as they have ensured at the gates.Its neither our habit to steal, nor is there anything much of value in the meeting room for us to steal and to ensure that we don’t steal, they could park a guard in the room to watch that we don’t steal. As Sharmin continues insisting that we leave and wait outside the gates, I ask the security personnel if we could wait on some other floor and that’s how we got to wait 2hrs in the reception.
As I had most of my evidence as soft copies and had no internet to access some of them or a convenient way to make hard copies of them at that late hour, my dad felt it better that I go home and go to the police station later with hard copies.
12.A Spate of SMSs:
I had specifically declined to part pay and activate or verbally promise to pay and activate my internet connection as my contention was that I merely want Reliance Communications to deliver on the original promise of 14.7Mbps speed, unlimited download, renewable at predetermined rates in successive rates.
Late at night, after returning home I found the following SMSs:
As I was not able to send a message back to these system generated SMSs, I messaged Tilak.
13 CALL FROM VISHAL GURUNG
Vishal Gurung finally called me at 12:26pm on 28-7-2016
I was offered 4G with 10 GB then 20GB caps and an offer to be proactively kept informed of better deals. I would be sent bills but the company would “take care” of them.
I always opt for unlimited downloads or go prepaid as it avoids avoidable disputes with ISPs. So their caps deals are unacceptable to me.
Worse to allow Reliance Communications to raise bills that they promise” to take care of “sounded like a way allow them to harass me some more. What’s to prevent them from welching on their promise and leaving me with bills and a collection system chasing me to get payment? I’d likely be buying bigger disputes for the future and what’s to protect me from the company reporting me as a defaulter to the credit rating agencies and keeping me busy with problems?
Apparently the company has no problem tendering me an apology.
As for business losses arising from their actions? Sorry they can’t do anything about that.
I asked Mr Gurung to put this interaction down in writing.
I was to recieve this written communication via hand delivery on 29-7-2016 at my residence in Seawoods.
14.Call From A Reliance Communications Customer Relations Manager:
A few minutes after I got off the line talking to Mr Gurung,as on the day after the site visit I received a phone call from a Reliance Communications Customer Relations Manager pretending that he was calling in response to my interest in 4G plans.
I asked him if he was aware that I had a dispute with the company and had just finished talking to Mr Vishal Gurung and was waiting for his communication in writing on the morrow.
He said he’d speak to Vishal and get back to me in 5 minutes.
I didn’t hear back from him.
15.No written communication from Vishal Gurung:
29-7-2016 came and went but there was no hand delivery of any communication from Mr Vishal Gurung as he had promised just the previous day.
Each time the connection went dead it was switched off from the back-end and each time the connection was restored the company was capable of providing uninterrupted connection but the company deliberately chose not to do so using one excuse/pretext or the other.
That no 3G but only 4G was available on site as supposedly reported by the technical team is a lie. Here are networks detected by my instrument:
As supposedly the only way Reliance Communications could honour its prior contract of multi-year renewable,14.7Mbps speed and unlimited downloads was via 4G,the technical team that came home on 12-7-2016 activated internet via 4G.
However, the company fraudulently made changes at the back end on 21-7-2016 and 26-7-2016 as shown by the SMSs below:
And 2 1/2 after hours after the 26-7-2016 fraudulent tampering the following messages were sent:
And before 9:32 the next morning the connection was turned off(implying that the next 50% of data was used up, and a large excess for which they raised a fraudulent demand for Rs3500 + according to their explanations. Meaning that from 12-7-2016 to 26-7-2016 I used a certain amount of data and the same amount and then more in the evening and night of 26-7-2016)
Now its easy to see why Sharmin insisted that Tilak leave the room.
Not only was the connection settings tampered with at the back end after the technical team visited my home on 12-7-2016 and set up the connection with the understanding that it was the company now executing its prior contract via 4G because they couldn’t do so via 3G.A lie that has already been proved.
Turning off connection on the 27th was a deliberate act meant to make me out to be the defaulter who was not paying for data and try and obscure the fact that Reliance Communications is the defaulter that has tried using every foul means possible to not execute an existing contract.
Vishal Gurung’s final offer of 4G plans with 10 GB then 20GB caps and an offer to be proactively kept informed of better deals where I would be sent bills but the company would “take care” of them were attempts to trap me into supposedly owing Reliance Communications more money.(3500 +x30=1lakh+ per month!)