The best cure for insomnia, they say, is a Monday morning! And during this frenzied ‘rush hour’, juggling between kids’ school, domestic commitments and getting ready for final arguments in court, the phone rings. It’s an outstation call from a Kolkatta number, with an automated message from BSNL about impending “disconnection” of my phone line for an “overdue” bill payment.
This wasn’t a one-off interruption. There had been similar nuisance calls and text messages about this so called “due”. As a policy, I make all my payments even before brushing my teeth, on the 1st of every month. For any bill that comes, my timeline is usually the same day. The fact is that this BSNL bill was paid 10 days ago!
The disclaimer: “ignore, if paid” does not make any sense. Not after they disturb a customer multiple times for no reason. I had once tried to make this company see reason with a tweet along the lines of ‘My phone is not working. Please have it rectified immediately. If it is working, please ignore this complaint.’ The sarcasm was completely lost on BSNL, back then, as it responded seeking details of the phone that was ‘not working’! I guess, one cannot expect more from a call centre that is fed template replies or BOTS, if used there. The policy of default messaging all subscribers and programming automated calls to everyone several times with a meaningless disclaimer is unacceptable. Just imagine if all its subscribers make default complaints with a similar disclaimer!
The disclaimer: “ignore, if paid” does not make any sense. I had once tried to make this company see reason with a tweet along the lines of ‘My phone is not working. Please have it rectified immediately. If it is working, please ignore this complaint.’ The sarcasm was completely lost on BSNL!
BSNL may be plagued with existential issues. I get that. With an obvious resource crunch, wouldn’t it be easier to call only the defaulters, as opposed to everyone, including those who have paid their bills? Or are we to assume that the defaulters outnumber customers who pay up?! Private telecom companies may get on our nerves for a plethora of reasons but they don’t indulge in this ‘default mass contact programme.’
Isn’t it a form of spamming? Isn’t it an unfair trade practice? Isn’t it an invasion of privacy? Isn’t it a violation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ guidelines? It’s as exasperating as those tele-marketing callers offering credit cards, loans or other products. The difference is that with spam billing related misinformation, customers are forced to check and re-check their payment history and contact their banks. With work from home quite prevalent, no one would want to have their phone line or broadband disconnected over some oversight. Such false alarms can upset our rhythm.
Like a good citizen, if you try pointing this out to the company on a social media platform, another robotic response promising “prompt action” will be triggered. Define prompt, Sirs. 6 hours? Twelve hours? Twenty-four hours? One week? Never?
BSNL, are you listening? Hello, hello.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, an Arbitrator, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)