BSNL Landline - RIP

On Sat, 15th Sep 2012, I surrendered my BSNL landline (and broadband) connection bringing to end a 12 year relationship with BSNL.

I still remember early 2000 when I got a landline within a few months of having applied for the same.  (Those were the days when there was a waiting time).   I had to pay an initial deposit of Rs.1000/- when booking and another Rs.2000/- in the first bill.

I took broadband when it became popular in Bangalore.  By and large, I had trouble-free telephone and internet access.

Then came the telecom privatisation and entry of Airtel, Reliance, Tata and so on.  These did not cause any effect on me, since I had no issues with my landline or broadband.  Also, BSNL rates were one of the lowest in the market.

I had set up an Electronics Clearance System (ECS) mandate so that my monthly bills were directly debited from my Bank account.  I had also opted for the annual plan, which entailed me to a two-month discount in the rental.

My first major issue came when I moved homes and had to shift my telephone.  This simple activity took a couple of months and four to five visits to BSNL office.  This was in March 2009.  My landline number changed as well.

Subsequently, after I started seeing issues with BSNL,  I opted out of the Annual plan and decided to go back to the monthly one.   Each time I faced an issue, I could see the deterioration in the service - once in 2010 and another in 2011.

Then came April 2012 - the last month when my landline worked.  I managed to get rebate for unused services for April, May and June by applying for the same.  And then came the proverbial last straw in the camel's back.  BSNL unilaterally switched me to their Annual Plan and billed me Rs.5000/- in the bill for the month of July 2012.

I was in US during that time and my wife visited BSNL office twice to request them to revert the amount and not issue an ECS mandate.  Despite this, BSNL went ahead with the mandate and my account was debited with the amount.

The amount was reverted in August bill but a charge of Rs.250/ was slapped on me - apparently some billing glitch which occurred in the course of "switching the plans".

I visited BSNL office on Sat, 8 Sep with the documents as detailed in this useful blog.  My first order of business was to visit the Customer Service section and get an "endorsement" to the effect that my landline and broadband were out of order and I was entitled to rebate.  I then went up to the 3rd floor of BSNL building in Indira Nagar only to find the doors locked - it was Second Saturday.

I was back in BSNL office on Sat, 15th Sep.  My first visit was to the Accounts Section (Room #306) to check why I was billed Rs.250/- as well as why I was billed Annual Charges.  He said I needed to get an endorsement from Customer Service section for reverting Rs.250/-.  As for the Annual Charge, this was for Commercial to explain.

Back I was to the Ground Floor and to Mr. Narasimhan, an elderly person in charge of endorsement.  He was sympathetic and I was at my sarcastic best (since this was - hopefully - going to be my last visit to the office).  Armed with the endorsement I went to the Reception in 3rd floor.  (Hey, the lift works - something to cheer)

I was asked to go to 4th floor (Stores) to surrender my telephone.  This got over in a jiffy - they had a seal for this (perhaps considering the number of surrenders).  Back in Reception, I was directed back to the Accounts section - to find out my "dues".  I also wanted to ensure I got rebates for July, August and September and this meant a visit to "Excess Billing Section" (Room #301).

Another elderly person struggled with the software application to pull up my call records and confirmed that indeed I had not made any, nor used the internet.  I told him that I was cancelling my connection and also asked him about the Annual billing.  He began a rant on how things had changed and customer requests were being taken over phone and implemented without verification.  He said that if he began talking about things there, I would not even ask for rebates!

They had a pretty low-end computer and the software connected to a Chennai server and apparently timed out unless kept active periodically.  An adjacent computer apparently was not connected to this server - evidently computerisation has been slow and painful.

I was back in Accounts and the person-in-charge noted the endorsements.  He said he would "call me on Monday" to tell me how much I was going to be refunded.  He added that the refund would take 45 days to come.  I asked him for his number and needless to say, he did not give it. I have not heard from him - perhaps one of the missed calls that I got on Monday was from him - but I doubt!  I have never seen a BSNL employee calling from his personal cell number - lest it be used to call him back.

I handed over the filled up/endorsed surrender form in Reception and got an acknowledgement.  Now to wait and see when my refund will come.

There were two or three others who were surrendering their phones at the same time as me.  They complained that there was no information on the process for doing it and they were made to go from one room/office to another.  Also, BSNL billing is a month late. For instance, the bill for August is generated by 10th of Sep and needs to be paid by 30th.   So none had paid the August bill, which was a pre-requisite for surrender.  They had to do this additional step - which was not required in my case, since BSNL owed me money.

Having been without a working "landline" from April, we no longer see the need for one.  As for broadband,  Hathway cable broadband has been doing its job from mid-July - so far so good!

Update: 19 Nov.

Visited BSNL office in Indira Nagar on Sat, 17 Nov, since it was 2 months since my request for disconnection and my refund 15 days overdue.

A lady in the Account section says "45 days?  Who said 45 days?  It takes 3 months for refund to come".   She opens her computer reluctantly and says, "See, the system has not processed your request yet."

"So what should I do?  Keep visiting each Saturday?", said I.

"No, you have specified your address, right?  The cheque will come home."

"When?"

"System has to process.  Then it will come to us for approval.   Why don't you talk to the Junior Accounts Officer (or some such designation)?"

I go over to him.  The process is repeated and he shows me the screen.  "See Sir, the system has not yet processed".

And I thought "Matrix" was just a movie!  These guys are talking as if the System is something which rules them.  "So when is it likely to happen?"

"This should all be done by end of the month".

I am waiting with fingers crossed.  Let us see how this goes.  On a related note, none of my requests to "revert unused/incorrect charges" were honoured.  I am past caring.

Update: 15 Dec 2012

Another visit to BSNL office in Indira Nagar.  Utter disregard for my plight.  Asked to go from one counter to another, till one person asked for my number and said, "it is not yet processed".

"So when is it likely to be?"

"It has been done only till July.  Yours is September.  So you can figure out yourself."

"What can I do to expedite it?"

"Talk to the Chief Accounts Officer."

"Where can I find her?"

"No, wait. Talk to the Senior Accounts Officer. She sits in the cabin right across."

I wait for about 15 minutes as the Senior Accounts Officer addresses an issue of another person.  She turns to me and asks, "Phone number?"

I tell her my number.

She takes a piece of paper and rights it down.

"I will email our Hyderabad section."

"Hyderabad?  Why?"

"The System has not processed it.  It moves from one stage to another.  My job is to approve when it reaches a certain stage. It has not come to it yet.  Once I contact Hyderabad, it will move another stage."

"How many stages are there?   How many times more should I come?  When will I get my refund?"

"Sir, you don't understand.  It will take time - say a month.  Please don't come.  The cheque will come to your home."

I return, completely unconvinced if I will ever get my money back.

Update: 17 Dec 2012

I have shared all my details with my colleague, whose father is a Senior General Manager in Department of Telecom.   She says, her father cannot change the system, but will try to get my case addressed.

Update: 19 Dec 2012

My colleague tells me my "case" has been processed and I should it be getting it soon.

I will not believe it until I see it.  Also, according to her, there is some disparity in the amount which has been "approved" - so anticipating another "fight"!

Update: 29 Dec 2012

I could not resist making another trip.  This time the concerned staff was present.  Amazingly I found a file containing my phone number on his table.  Was this my lucky day?  He looked at his computer and said, "Sir, your phone number is still active.  Why don't you talk to ma'am?"  (The same Senior Accounts officer I met last time)

The lady looks at my details and says, "You had made a request to reverse some charges.  This happened on 15th Dec. Hence your connection is still active.  It will take a month more!"

"Ma'am - my request was made when I initiated disconnection on 15th Sep.  Why did this take this long?"

"The concerned staff was on leave"

"Leave?  For 3 months?"

"Sir, we are doing our best sir.  This is how the system works."

"I came 2 weeks back..."

"Yes, that is when we searched and got your file.  And we saw your credit request.  And I approved it."

"What about Hyderabad?"

"When should I come next?  Why don't you keep me updated on these things?"

"I did not have your cell number."

"What?  my records have my details."

This time, I raised my voice - not that it mattered.  The conversation was so pathetic that I left it after 2 minutes.  I asked, "Where is your Chief Accounting Officer?  Let me now talk to her."

"She is on leave, sir"

There you go.

Update: 15 Mar 2013

I might have made a trip or two prior to this, but I don't recall anything worth of recording.  This was on Friday, a week day.  The office was sparsely populated and after hanging around for a while and being shuttled from one person to another, finally I got to talk to the concerned guy.

"Your refund has been approved"

Wow!  what an amazing thing.  "Ok, so what next?"

"Have you provided your Bank details?"

"No I haven't.  It was not asked."

"We are now using ERP and need Bank details.  Give me Account Number, IFSC code, MICR number"

What would have happened if I had not visited?  Also, why on earth am I supposed to carry around such information with me?

As it turned out, I had my laptop (being en route office), and hence could provide him the relevant details.

"So when will I get the refund?"

"In a week to 10 days time, it will be credited to your Bank account".

A week passed, 10 days passed, 2 weeks passed and 3 weeks.

Update: 6 Apr 2013

A new financial year and hopefully new tidings.  I met the Senior Accountant directly.

"I know your case well.  We have exchanged several email with our other offices."

Good to know I am a celebrity!

"Your refund is approved.  Your cheque is ready.  Cheque number is so and so."

"Cheque?  I thought you had ERP and were doing Bank transfers"

"We are collecting information as asked by our office.  But we are still doing cheque payment"

"So what next?"

"Cheques are dispatched from our Ulsoor office.  That office is only partially functioning.  You can go there are collect cheque, if not dispatched."

"Is there a contact number?   Will I find anyone if I go today?"

"How can I answer for them, Sir?"

Indeed, how can she!

I took a chance and drove to the Ulsoor office - a dilapidated buildinge next to a swanky Mall (1 M G Road).  Luckily I had asked the lady for office details and knew it was on second floor.  There were several buildings with two floors or more.  I took a chance and went up the one, whose entrance was in the back.  This is how the Indira Nagar office is structured by the way - maybe a vastu thing.

I found a lady seated and asked her if this was the "accounts" section.  It was.  I gave her the cheque details and she said it had been "despatched" the previous day.  She added that I could come over in case the cheque returned - evidently not an infrequent occurrence.

Update: Mon, 8 Apr 2013

I receive an SMS in the evening from my Bank - a credit of amount equivalent to my BSNL refund.  It also mentioned the cheque number!

I am no longer surprised nor interested to know how the cheque was sent directly to the Bank.

Finally it was all over - I had received the refund after all - an event, according to many is a rarity.  It took 6.5 months since the surrender date for this to happen.

Apparently you are supposed to get interested if the refund is delayed by more than 2 months.  No thanks - I am not in for another adventure.


Comments

  1. I also have Bsnl broadband connection. Offer I have to out of country for 6 or more than 6 months. But I never used to surrender my phone and broad.band connection . Because being an elderly lady I could not walk up and down to surrender and get the connection again.
    This time I am thinking of surrendering it as I will be out of India for nearly one year.will anybody kindly suggest the procedure, as my phone and broad band bill amount is being deducted from my pension through Ecs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have bsnl connection from past 1 year, recently I shifted it to another place. Bsnl took near about 15 day to shift, Still after shifting 2 days to start land-line service, still my broadband not working, After 1 week of application I visited daily 2 times to bsnl office. Why these peoples are slow in working, becoz they are in govt job, or anything else.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I put disconnection for landline and broadband in Oct 2014 got my refund deposit cheque today, had to visit their exchange because they billed me for not returnung back their telephone instrument as I remember I declined the instrument while taking the connection, it turns out that the linesman never return back the instrument in his office,the staff at my local exchange told he might have sold it off via black market,switched to act broadband finally

    ReplyDelete

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