Hyderabad: A consumer forum in Hyderabad has directed telecom service provider Bharti Airtel to pay Rs. 25,000 towards cost and compensation to one of its post-paid customers.

In 2017, Airtel had marketed a handset damage protection plan for a rate as low as Rs. 79 per month by downloading the “my Airtel App”. According to the plan, if a person drops his/her phone, he/she can upload the claim through the app. Airtel promised to pay for the damages and replace/repair the mobile phone. The advertisement asked the customer to visit www.airtel.in/postpaid promise for more details.

On visiting the above website, the user had to click on “we promise. Mobile damage repair expenses will be covered” and was directed to another website www.airtel.in/airtel-secure where under the heading “secure handset against damage” it was stated that “Mobile repairs up to 60% of your phone value in case of accidental or liquid damage”.

The complainant, Sunial Jain, purchased an iPhone 6s in October 2015. In view of Airtel’s advertisement, the complainant opted for the “Airtel secure” plan for which Airtel started charging him Rs.75 per month. However, on 1 August 2017, his phone fell down while he was coming out of a car.

As an Airtel secure plan holder, he registered for a claim and received a mail on 2 August seeking a detailed description of the damage. Mr Sunial said, “I was informed that the documents I had submitted for the claim were verified successfully. Subsequently, courier personnel sent by Airtel picked up my iPhone. I was told it would take three to four days to repair it.”

But later Mr Sunial received an email saying his claim of Rs. 20,948 had been rejected by the insurance company due to improper handling and said he had not taken proper care to safeguard his phone. “I was shocked because Airtel had promised through their advertisement that it would pay the damage charges while according to the mail some other third party insurance company had rejected my claim,” said Mr Sunial.

Replying to his allegations Airtel, in an official statement, said, “The allegations made by the complainant against our company Airtel are absolutely false and incorrect. The advertisement as such is not conclusive and cannot be considered as the same are governed by terms and conditions.” The telecom company further said that the alleged incident never occurred on the said date and the complainant is trying to cover up his own negligence.

Considering the facts the forum said it is very clear from the policies of the telecom company that the mobile repair and expenses will be covered up to 60 per cent of the phone value in case of accidental or liquid damage. “The cause of rejection of the complainant’s claim is improper handling/no proper care of handset but the said fact has not been established by the opposite party (Airtel). It is also not in dispute by the opposite party that in the entire screenshot filed by the complainant, nowhere was it found that the claim is subject to proof of approval of the insurance company. The opposite party also failed to furnish the name of the insurance company which handled the matter,” the forum said.

With the above observations, the forum directed Airtel to repair the phone and pay a sum of Rs. 20,000 as compensation for mental agony and pain caused to Mr Sunail and an additional Rs 5,000 towards the cost of the litigation.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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