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Airtel Fined Rs. 5 Lakh for Harassing Customer

Irked by the “mischief conduct” of its executives towards customers, a consumer forum in New Delhi has asked Bharti Airtel Limited to pay Rs. five lakh, saying it was a fit case for “punitive damages” to teach the company a “lesson”. The New Delhi Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, presided over by C. K. Chaturvedi, asked the company to pay Rs. two lakh to complainant Jasmeet Singh Puri, the CEO of a private firm, who had alleged that executives of the firm had harassed him by repeatedly asking him to pay the bills he had already paid.

“After considering the material… particularly the act of discontinuing services despite payments and raising bills again shows a lack of coordination between different department of OP1 (company) whereby complainant is made to suffer; all due to internal mismanagement as well as lackadaisical attitude of OP1 executives towards the very people who provides a market for their services,” the forum said. “We hold that it is a fit case for punitive damages to teach OP1 a lesson, so that its executives are disciplined and deterred from such behaviour to innocent consumers,” it said in a judgement passed on September 4.

The forum, also comprising its member S. R. Chaudhary and Ritu Garodia, observed that the executives had replied to Mr. Puri’s e-mails in an insincere manner with no efforts to reconcile the issues raised by him.“… which clearly proves that mischief conduct of OP1’s representatives, which appears to be deliberate and mala fide, with a purpose and design to harass the responsible professional, to heap insults, humiliation, mental agony by crass and bizarre attitude of OP1,” the forum said.It directed the company to pay the remaining Rs. three lakh to the State Consumer Welfare Fund.

Mr. Puri had approached the forum alleging that he had given a cheque of Rs. 4,995 to the company on March 4 last year for installation of landline phone and modem for Internet service.He said after installation was done, he and his family started receiving calls from company’s executives that the cheque was dishonoured due to insufficient funds but when he checked it from his bank, he found that amount was credited on March 9, 2013.

Mr. Puri told the bench that he informed the executives about it but they kept on calling him and demanding the amount. During the adjudication of plea, the company had offered to pay Rs 5,000 as compensation to Mr. Puri. The bench, in its order, noted that it was not a routine case of issuing redemption for dues to a firm, but a motivated misconduct to time out consumer by irresponsible executives of the company.

“This reveals a lack of sensitivity in Opposite Party 1’s (company) executives to plight of their customers as well as no supervision in a big company like OP1 for quick redressal of consumer’s grievances,” it said. It also noted that the bank had supported Mr. Puri’s case by stating that his cheque was credited in company’s account.

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