« Back to articlePrint this article

Think Before You Make A Complaint!

June 07, 2024 10:44 IST

National Commission concluded that false and baseless allegations had been made in the complaint to claim a highly exaggerated and atrocious amount of compensation.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Anand Arya got his first Airtel mobile connection in 1998 and found the service to be good. He acquired a second connection in 2002.

However, from 2010 onwards, the service began to deteriorate. Despite this, he added two more connections in January 2012 and October 2013, becoming a costumer with four connections.

According to Arya, the problems worsened, with frequent instances of no mobile signal, which prevented him from receiving or making calls.

Even when a call connected occasionally, the voice was unclear. He claimed he faced significant hardship when he couldn't contact a doctor during a medical emergency.

He also complained about difficulties in completing online transactions because the one-time password (OTP) was not received in time.

Terming this to be a deficiency in service, Arya filed a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against Bharti Airtel, the Union of India through the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

Arya pointed out that Airtel had approximately 307 million subscribers as stated on its Web site, so even with one single call drop per day, it would benefit with an additional yearly revenue of Rs 4,482 crore (Rs 44.82 billion).

He also stated that his complaints to DoT and Trai did not even elicit an acknowledgement, so he had impleaded them as parties to the dispute.

Arya claimed Rs 117,34,070 as compensation for deficiency in service, Rs 44,82,20,000 as liquidated damages for call drops, and Rs 44,37,37,80,000 as punitive damages to be deposited in the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, with a direction to recover these amounts from the top 10 officials in charge of DoT and Trai from 2010 onwards.

He argued that Airtel had kept increasing its subscribers without improving its infrastructure, so it was necessary to issue directions to develop adequate infrastructure for providing efficient service.

Airtel contested the complaint, stating it provided proper network coverage at the street level.

While obligated to cover the streets, it was not required to ensure full coverage inside buildings due to unavoidable 'dark spots' or 'black holes' where signals cannot reach.

The National Commission concurred with Airtel that the physics of radio waves limits the efficiency of a communication system to less than 100 per cent, even if infinite resources are assigned.

So wireless technology cannot always ensure call retainability, and call drops were a natural phenomenon.

Airtel also submitted that it had attempted to resolve Arya's grievance by attempting to boost the signal through the installation of a 'repeater' at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh, which was not disclosed in the complaint.

The Commission indicted Arya for suppressing this fact.

The National Commission also noted that Arya had alleged that Airtel's services had deteriorated since 2010 but he had still preferred to take two additional connections and had not attempted to port his numbers to another service provider.

It also pointed out that Airtel had done its best to resolve Arya's grievance, so even if there were network issues, it could not be considered a deficiency in service in the absence of wilful default.

Accordingly, by its order of May 10, 2024, delivered by the bench of Justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya and Bharatkumar Pandya, the National Commission concluded that false and baseless allegations had been made in the complaint to claim a highly exaggerated and atrocious amount of compensation.

It dismissed Arya's complaint and ordered him to pay Rs 2 lakh each to Airtel, DoT, and Trai as litigation costs, aggregating to Rs 6 lakh.

Jehangir B Gai is a consumer activist.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

Jehangir B Gai
Source: source image